Yesterday, my 15-year-old daughter looked at me over the mountain of groceries in our shopping cart and said, “I have come to the realization that holidays are a lot of work.”
I leaned over the loaves of bread between us. “And I have bad news for you; it doesn’t get any better.”
Whoops, not the best example of spreading Christmas cheer. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I hear the first Christmas Carol in November (which is, by the way, horribly WRONG), I don’t think of lights or presents or even the baby Jesus. I think of work.
Thinking of the gifts. Shopping for the gifts. Wrapping the gifts. It’s not that it’s so difficult, it’s that it’s so much. I literally have a spread sheet to help me remember what Santa is giving, what grandparents are giving, what we are giving, and if the distribution is even among the children. Then there are all the other gifts, for friends and teachers and youth pastors. Astrophysics it is not; mentally exhausting it is.
My husband accuses me of making things harder than they need to be. So this year, I took his advice and allowed myself to simplify my holiday to do list. One thing that made a huge difference: instead of shopping for gifts for my five nieces and nephews, I just gave them cash.
This didn’t come easily. I felt guilty. Somehow inadequate. My sister-in-law always chooses thoughtful gifts for my kids. She also lives in a city, has access to stores, and likes to shop. I live in the boonies, (we just got reliable Internet a few months ago), the nearest decent stores are an hour away, and I hate to shop.
When SIL called to run her gift ideas by me, I felt the guilt coming on, and for a moment, I almost caved. Would I be a bad aunt if I didn’t have individually selected gifts for the cousins? I contemplated a trip to American Eagle and Barnes and Noble. And the younger boys, they’d want something sporty… But then I remembered my husband’s advice, Stop making this hard.
With a bit of trepidation, I told my sister-in-law, “I’m just giving your kids cash.” And do you know what she said?
“My kids like cash.”
No judgement. No disappointment. Lots of relief for me.
So here’s my gift to you this holiday season: you don’t have to do it all. Cash or gift cards are OK. You don’t have to spend an hour composing a letter to include with the Christmas cards. In fact, you don’t have to send Christmas cards at all. Happy New Year cards work too. And if you don’t get five batches of cookies baked by December 24, certainly no one will starve.
Do what you can, enjoy what you do.
No matter what holiday you celebrate this season, don’t feel guilty for letting some things go so that you can enjoy the lights and carols and most importantly, the people around you.
It’s just a few days before Christmas. What can you let go?