A Holiday Gift: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

Usually around the holidays, I share a post with gift ideas for Word Nerds. However, this year, I think everybody needs something different. Most people I talk to are stressing about unwrapped gifts and trees yet to be trimmed (or maybe even purchased). I inadvertently freaked out several of my friends when they received Christmas cards from me the first week of December. I sent early because we recently switched to a PO Box, and I wanted the new address to get out to loved ones before the holiday rush. Next year I’ll send later, I promise.

Something’s wrong here. A card in the mail shouldn’t elicit freak outs. It should spark warm fuzzies and happiness. So, I want to give you something better than gift ideas. I want to give you assurance. Here it is:

There is no such thing as a perfect Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa).

If you think there is, please stop watching Hallmark commercials and listening to the Martha Stewart wannabe voice in your head. We are driving ourselves crazy, and we need to stop.

Just because I mailed my cards, don’t assume I’m ready for Christmas. I’m still acquiring presents and have not wrapped the first one. And baking? That usually doesn’t start until a few days before the holiday, except I just agreed to send in goodies for holiday parties and teacher luncheons next week, so baking will commence momentarily.
Except, I’m out of brown sugar.

I finally picked up a new string of lights to wrap around the garland on the shorter side of our stair banister. Well, turns out 50 feet is too short for the “short side”. Also, only half of the long side of the banister lights up. I have two strands linked together, so there are plenty of lights, however, the electricity jumps right through the first strand and only lights up the second strand.

I’m supposed to be happy at Christmas, but the holiday brings sad memories. We had to put my mom in a nursing home a few weeks before Christmas in 1995. She was often disoriented or withdrawn those days, but when I sang “Have a holly jolly Christmas” and gave her a kiss on the cheek, she would giggle and I would laugh. Now, 21 years after she died, that song makes me cry.

A delivery from Amazon arrived at my friend’s house when she wasn’t home, so her puppy got to the box before she did.  He managed to unwrap a DVD and poke exactly one tooth through the case. He also hid a box of wine glass charms. Fortunately, she found them the next day, but not before a near miss with a nervous breakdown.

Quote Magnet from Barnes and Noble

Maybe you’ve lost a loved one this year and the holidays are a bittersweet reminder of your pain. Maybe money is tight and you’re not sure how you can possibly afford presents for everyone. Maybe your marriage is tense and you have a hard time spreading holiday joy when you feel like picking a fight.

Whatever the reason, if you feel frazzled or failing, I assure you, you aren’t alone. It’s okay not to feel festive all the time. It’s also okay if your tree was decorated by a pack of children high on sugar who have no concept of balance. My tree has a “candy cane alley”.

The holidays have challenging moments, but they also have joyful moments, and the trick is to give ourselves enough of a break that we can enjoy the precious gifts we receive – and I don’t mean the ones wrapped in fancy paper.  Don’t let the lights and ribbons and pressures to “find that perfect gift” steal your happy.

Now, I have exactly one hour to wrap.  I won’t get everything done, but that’s okay. I’ve got time. So do you.

And if you still want gift ideas for Word Nerds, click here.  😉

Do you have an example of holiday imperfection that you can share? Please do so in the comments.







Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.


  1. A perfect post for this time of year. Sometimes when I have loads of things to get done and I’m feeling pressured, I end being overwhelmed and paralyzed. At those moments the thing that has helped me most is telling myself, “Just pick something. Anything. Just one thing.” Then I can focus on it and mark it off the list. And that feels great. : ) Realizing it doesn’t have to be perfect makes the task that much easier and more enjoyable.

  2. I’ve wrapped, but haven’t addressed a single card. I’m avoiding this chore as I want to write a newsletter to accompany the card but am dreading reliving some of the hard things that happened this year. You’re right, holidays are hard for many, and the older we get, the more bittersweet it’s bound to be. Good post.

    1. Amy, your posts are always so cheerful and encouraging, I’ve forgotten that it’s been a rough year for you. And I agree, as we age, we’ve got more to feel bittersweet about. Sending special thoughts and prayers your way.:)

  3. I haven’t wrapped a single thing, and I’m not sure what else to get for my kids. I did not send out cards this year for the first time in a long time, and I feel guilty about that. But that’s the way it is, and I’m trying to embrace the imperfections. For my family, the holidays are just about being together. That I can handle!

    Great post, Julia, and wise words.

    1. It’s hard to know what teens/ young adults will like. How about things like books, portable chargers, photo collages… Don’t feel guilty about the card – if it didn’t work this year, it didn’t work, you can always resume next year. Or send a New Year’s card!! Embracing is always good- you’ve inspired me with that powerful word. Happy Holidays!

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