Christmas: Great Joy or Big Burden?

Whether you are devout or secular, Christmas can be a tough time for many people.  Excess is a huge part of the season whether it is spending, eating, drinking, or social events. Expectations are also inflated to all-time highs.  Seeking the post-card-picture-perfect season is exhausting and impossible.

Here are 9 suggestions to help you recover the joy of the season.  But don’t take these as additional expectations … pick and choose what works for you!

  1. Spread the work around.We all tend to underestimate the amount of work involved in Christmas chores, traditions, and events. Work-load frequently falls to the few (read: Mom?).  When people contribute to an event, they cease to be a demanding audience and become giving partners. So, plan to ask early for help – set the expectation of shared duties well in advance (e.g. – John will bring potatoes, Sue will bring dessert, Phil will make salad, and Dad will cook the turkey).
  2. Avoid landmines. While family and friends certainly are more important than shopping and stuff … every family has pressure points and fracture lines.  Talk transparently with your support people in the family about triggers and how to avoid them.  If Uncle Harry’s excessive consumption of alcohol is an issue, would a breakfast gathering avoid the “drunken explosion”?
  3. Set financial limits low. Money spent on gifts, parties, and meals can strain the budget.Agree to a limit for gift purchases and reward the best gift for the least amount.  My wife’s grandma always won – “here is a cashmere cardigan I bought for you at a garage sale – for 10 cents.” 
  4. Plan a comfortable level of activity. Look at your calendar BEFORE DECEMBER with those around you … decide in advance how many events a week you actually can manage; e.g. – children’s activities, family events, friend events, work events, church events.  Schedule YOUR party to take place in the New Year, on Christmas according to the Julian calendar when the demands are lighter.
  5. Book time with a Christmas book. Plan time to focus on the reason for the season. Nurture your spirit.  Read and discuss Christmas stories with those around you, whether “The bible” (try a fresh modern version like “The Message”), buy a daily meditation book (e.g. Richard Rohr); watch Christmas classics on TV (but remember to discuss them … that’s where entertainment becomes spiritual growth!).
  6. Make gifts … personal. Negotiate with your circle to LIMIT the giving of things, to “things” we make ourselves.  One of the best Christmases I experienced involved each person giving 1thing-gift, and writing a poem for the rest. The poems turned out to be epic odes rather than limericks and were profoundly moving. People really thought about each other and the poems (and poets) were appreciated more than the things!
  7. Schedule time to be healthy. Rest, exercise, enjoy.  A regular family walk is an opportunity for pictures, conversation, and connection to the earth without a screen in-between. Make a tradition of walking the neighbourhood to see lights.
  8. Attend to children and elders. Ask a grandparent to talk about “the olden days.”  Who knows, you might meet your parents or grandparents again for the first time.  Watch a toddler playing in the wrapping paper or a grandchild singing carols, and find your faith in people restored.
  9. Serve others. Advertising urges us to give stuff that affluent family and friends don’t really want or need.  Christmas at its root is the story of the Divine coming into a place of poverty, to bring what we need … unconditional love.  Think about how you can be a blessing to another.

 In short – most of these suggestions boil down to two things – plan ahead, and stick to your priorities. We at the United Church in Meadowood pray you a Merry Christmas!


And the People Said

Sunday morning’s service was a very touching reminder of the significance of Palm Sunday.  It was a meaningful way to contemplate the lead-in to Holy Week.

Joy B.

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The United Church in Meadowood

1111 Dakota Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
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