This holiday season, I noticed something miraculous. I was in a store, and found myself humming joyfully along to the holiday music playing over the speakers. I was in a store, at Christmas time, I wasn’t annoyed or anxious, and I was enjoying the holiday music.
This was all wrong.
That had never happened to me in all my 24 years as a parent. Being calm in a store pre-Christmas and singing along to the holiday songs? Browsing the aisles without a care in the world? Admiring displays and taking my time to explore and enjoy my surroundings? And then I realized why I was happy.
I had instituted our family’s first Christmas with the Kranks. I had canceled Christmas and the simple act had made me JOYOUS.
First, let me say I’m not a Grinch. I have done Christmas above and beyond for nearly a quarter of a century for my three young adult children. I have hosted Christmas cookie exchanges, decorated trees to the nth degree, crafted elaborate ornaments with my kids, tossed reindeer food onto the lawn on Christmas Eve, made cookies for Santa, and even wrapped my front door to look like a gift. There’s not much Christmas I haven’t done.
And I’m just a bit tired.
I was tired of the anxiety that automatically hit the minute the turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving had been eaten and the shopping had to begin. I was tired of racing around stores, looking for the perfect gifts to wrap, making sure that each child had exactly the same number of gifts worth the same amount of dollars. The stress of buying and sorting and wrapping and hiding had taken all the excitement and joy out of the holiday for me.
And my children are older now. Yes, it was magical when my kids would stumble down the stairs on Christmas morning and I’d watch their amazed little faces glow as they discovered the gifts under the lit tree. I have beautiful memories of those moments and I will cherish them forever.
But this year, I decided we’d do something different and make other memories. After discussing my idea with my kids and my husband, we were all in agreement.
We are skipping our traditional Christmas celebration.
Actually, we’re not “skipping” Christmas, we’re relocating the celebration. So, this Christmas morning, I will not wake to a decorated tree surrounded by bright red and green festively wrapped gifts in our home. We will not have a lazy morning opening presents, eating bakery goodies and drinking coffee and hot chocolate. We will not settle in for our hundredth viewing of A Christmas Story (sorry Ralphie). I will not stress over making the perfect Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. (Okay, I never really did that part very well anyway!)
Instead, this Christmas morning, we will wake up surrounded by palm trees, warm sand, tropical breezes, the bright blue of the ocean … and each other.
We will celebrate Christmas on vacation this year. Together. So I’m enjoying the stress-free moments that have led up to this holiday—and not having to do a million things in a short amount of time to make everyone else happy. It might be selfish, or it might be the greatest thing ever, but I’ve never felt this calm or peaceful in the week leading up to Christmas. There’s no running around the house, searching for long-ago hidden gifts I have to wrap. There’s no yelling that I can’t find the tape. There are no last-minute trips to Target to get that one forgotten item. There’s just anticipation of another sort for this special holiday. The anticipation that I will get to spend Christmas with the four people I love the most. That’s the gift I’m cherishing this year.
Canceling our previously standard Christmas and trying something new (that costs about the same amount of money) has lowered my stress levels and made me calmer and happier—and that makes everyone around me calmer and happier. I’m no Grinch, and I don’t begrudge anyone else their Christmas experience, but changing things up has made me feel like my heart may have just grown three times as big.