Question: I love Christmas time, but also dread the hype and chaos that come with it. I don’t want to get caught up in the materialism and shallow aspects. How do I stay grounded in what is meaningful, and influence my family to do the same?
Answer: Everywhere you look during the winter months is a reminder of the Christmas season. I noticed Christmas stuff at Costco the early part of October! It is easy to lose focus of what Christmas is really about with all the external influences and demands to get and give the biggest and best. Our focus too often shifts to what material items we need to acquire, having the best decorated house with the most lights and biggest tree (think “Christmas Vacation”), and how many presents are under the tree. Meanwhile, we are too stressed out and overwhelmed to even enjoy the process…not to mention up to our eyeballs in debt!
There is nothing wrong with present giving, decorating, or baking obscene amounts of Christmas cookies. However, it becomes a problem when that is all it is about. Like so many other things in life, it is about finding the right balance. Here are just a few suggestions on how to do that.
1. Forget about keeping up with the “Jones’s”. There seems to be an unspoken competition to have what others have, or to be a step ahead. None of that really matters. We end up acquiring “things” so that we feel adequate compared to others. That is not where our sense of peace or sense of self should come from. Who cares if the neighbors got a new, bigger car for Christmas and you can’t afford to? Congratulate them with a sincere heart and put your focus on what you do have. A bigger car does not make them better than you or anyone else.
2. It is often beneficial to scale back. This is a tough economy. Many families are struggling to make ends meet, let alone put on a big Christmas. This is a great time for a lot of us to simplify a bit. Set a realistic budget and stay within that budget. Take the emphasis off of presents and put it on building family traditions that have minimal to no cost: String popcorn to put on the tree while listening to Christmas music and sipping hot cider. Make it a competition to see who can string together the most popcorn in a set amount of time.
3. Be a servant. Christmas time falls during the coldest and wettest time of the year. The weather brings the opportunity for us to reach out and help those in need. Volunteer to serve food at a shelter, organize a clothes or toy drive, or offer to run errands for a person that is shut-in. Offer to watch a friend or neighbor’s little ones while she gets some much-needed alone time. Go read books and play games with children who are in the hospital during the holidays. They will benefit, and you can’t help but feel good as well.
4. Give the gift of Time. With such a crazy, hectic pace, it is easy to lose sight of what truly matters. Remember that quality time goes a long way, and is cherished for years to come. Read that extra story to your kids, snuggle in sleeping bags under the Christmas tree, or take a few extra moments to sit and have coffee with a dear friend, putting your never-ending “to do” list temporarily aside.
5. Don’t forget the real reason for Christmas. As much fun as it is to decorate the tree, adorn our homes, and enjoy presents, we must not lose sight of the meaning of Christmas. Take a few moments to read with your family about the birth of Jesus Christ in the Bible. As lost as our world can be, He brings hope, light, and peace, especially in troubled times. Let His peace reign over you during the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season. Merry Christmas to all of you!
Chantelle K. Dockter, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Associate of CCCOW, CCCOW.org