Christmas is a big event. For many anyway. It’s in the build-up: the frisson of carols by candlelight, Jingle Bells in shopping malls, the lights and decorations and the Christmas ads. Endless ideas on Pinterest, warm and happy feels, fizz and pop in the air.
It all becomes a bit more real when the kids come home with a toy catalogue distributed at school (I mean?), the office party comes and goes, and we say goodbye to teachers with a specially made card and present.
By now the kids are wildly excited, counting down the days to Christmas with melted chocolates they fish from behind cheap advent calendar doors. Their Santa wish lists change every day, unperturbed by the little speech they got about the elves not making expensive toys this year.
Anticipation soon turns to anxiety as time runs out, guests start arriving and bank accounts are leaking. We just throw money at it, because at this point, Christmas has become a problem.
Social media offers no escape: Everyone else seems to have it so together: posting inspirational messages and happy family photos and pictures of elegantly wrapped presents and charming Christmas trees – so very unlike mine.
There’s a vague awareness of hurtling through space, watching Christmas slip by, unplanned, unPinterested. Ours is going to be so ordinary. Do more, do more!
But this year, I had a sanity check. To simplify. To slow down and think about what we’re doing here. What is important to our family? What do we really want to remember as a family?
My 7- and 4-year-olds decorated our tree with little pictures they drew, paper-plate angels and old baubles they hung all on one branch. They love it. It’s not going to win likes on Instagram, but I’m switching off the phone. The South Easter wind keeps knocking over our tree anyway, strewing decorations across floors and under couches. I don’t pine for a perfect tree any longer.
This year, we’ll be shopping online again, starting tonight and not waiting for the weekend before Christmas. No more last-minute dashing about for us. No more maxing out credit cards.
We’re still working deadlines, but I won’t feel guilty about that. Having work is a privilege. Instead, we’ve got a calendar on the fridge door with a host of playdates and events set up, and plenty of down-time, being-bored-time for the kids in-between.
I’m creating a little low-budget “wonder park” for them in our minute garden, with tiny mirrors and dangling fabric strips and black-board paint. I booked us tickets to the Nutcracker ballet, just like my mom did when I was a little girl. And we’ll read, read, read books together.
Also read: 14 great family events around SA!
The family Christmas meal, spent with family who come from far away, will be a low-down affair, remembered not for the incredible food and perfectly placed serviettes but for the laughter and stories. We will take photos of that.
This year, we will leave behind the anxiety and the guilt, and instead be still and reflect on the ultimate gift our family celebrates: Christ’s promise of everlasting peace. Starting now.
Besides, stressed mom is not fun mom. And I realised that in the midst of the chaos, I get to choose.
What is your expectation of Christmas? Do you love getting reading for Christmas or does it give you heart palpitations? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may publish them.