By Amy McCollom
I used to love Christmas. I couldn’t wait to see all the decorations around town, to put our own tree up, to start lighting evergreen scented candles, and playing Christmas music throughout the house. Slowly, though, over the last 20 years I have become really stressed around Christmas. I have nearly become a Grinch, and that is not like me at all. What has happened to me? Where did the joy go?
For one thing, I used to feel like, and actually believed, that there was a certain way that Christmas Eve and Day was supposed to happen. I thought that there was a “standard” to meet, a perfect Christmas that was expected of every household. I actually thought that it was my job to create a perfect Christmas every year. And when things didn’t go as planned, or traditions couldn’t be kept, I felt like a failure.
There was so much to do each Christmas Season! School holiday concerts, parties, church programs, carolling! Every Christmas event had to be attended, on time, and every child of ours had to be dressed festively, well-behaved, and happy to be there. We have seven children. After wrestling seven kids to the carpet to comb hair, scrub faces clean, give stern warnings; I forced us all to be joyful. It was quite a feat and I feel I deserve a medal or at least a ribbon for all those years of such a duty.
Families can be full of special traditions, but traditions can be hard. Some traditions are great and are worth keeping. And there is always room for new fun traditions that everyone is willing to enjoy. But some traditions, perhaps a particular food or menu or activity, should be reconsidered.
Pastor Conner told a story of a lady who, when preparing her Christmas ham, always cut the ends off before baking it. Her daughter asked her one day why she did that, and she said she didn’t know that it was a tradition her mother taught her. So at dinner, she asked her mother where the tradition started, and her mother said that her mother always did that too, so she followed the same steps. Both ladies then turned to the elderly woman who had been the first at the table to cut the ends off of the ham before cooking it, and questioned why she did it, and she said, “Because my pan was too small to hold the whole ham.” Some traditions aren’t traditions at all, just misunderstandings.
For years when I was growing up, my mom made this orange jello salad in this green Tupperware bowl every year at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. No one liked it. We forced ourselves to eat it because we felt we had to. Basically it was orange jello with shredded carrots all through it, topped with mini marshmallows. It was terrible. It wasn’t until about three years ago that it finally stopped being made for the holiday meals, mainly because I spoke up, and refused to help make it any more, much to my mother’s dismay. Take a vote and make sure everyone likes the menu. If not, then make something more appealing. You are grown ups; you do not have to eat what you do not like anymore.
Christmas is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not a time of dread and full of work. Nobody wants to spend their whole day in the kitchen. There are exceptions, I know, but I would rather not spend hours roasting, poaching, boiling, and peeling things. I have arthritis in my hands and they hurt, my knees ache, and my back hurts after 20 minutes of standing. I want to make something I can put in the crockpot and not fuss over. That would make my Christmas Day much better than the years previous. Maybe that is why I am all for bucking traditions for what makes sense and what makes me happy. I think the ones doing the work should decide what they will prepare, and it should not be based on arm-twisting or guilt, or blackmail. I think this year at Christmas dinner, I am going to serve Shut Up And Eat It.
I like getting presents as much as anyone else. I am very thoughtful, too, and love giving presents. But “Christmas Shopping” now that the kids are older is so stressful that I would rather have a colonoscopy than be forced to shop for them. This is where I really turn into a Grinch. I hate Christmas shopping! It just isn’t fun anymore. The older kids are picky. I don’t dare buy them clothes. I don’t understand (or approve of) the music they listen to, and wouldn’t know what format to get them anyway. They don’t want cash, because they are young enough that they still like opening presents, but they want things that are impossible to find or just weird. Video games, makeup, electronics; Oh how I miss the days when a Barbie and a dinosaur would delight their hearts. Next year everybody gets a tee shirt and 20 bucks.
I love Christmas candy and goodies. However, most of my family either has diabetes, is training for some sort of sports thing, or is on a diet of some kind and is banning sugar. How can I make Christmas cookies and candy if no one is going to eat it but me? I really shouldn’t be eating much anyway, as I too need to be sort of watching my sugar, in a way. Let’s not get crazy though. I’m not banning sugar, that would probably kill my will to live.
Let’s face it; the old fashioned Christmas in magazines are pretty much gone. If you are having one, I’d like to come, or at least send me some pictures to prove it. I love watching Clark Griswold try to make the perfect old-fashioned family Christmas in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It has to be one of my favorite holiday movies. We all see ourselves in that movie, trying to do the same thing each year. Attempting the impossible, to make the perfect Christmas. It’s enough to drive a sane man crazy.
Well, I finally figured it out. The perfect Christmas cannot be created by us. It has never been about us in the first place. It’s not about what we create. It’s about what we find that was created for us. It’s a peace and a hope and a quiet understanding, a song being sung over us from God above. It’s the love that God proved to us when he placed his human form on this earth. He gave us Jesus. How humbling. The only perfect Christmas was the very first one.