Last year I wrote close to 50 Christmas cards.
I’ve always written Christmas cards. Even in high school I remember writing cards for all my friends and teachers. I remember taking the bus home from school on Fridays and stopping at the mall to buy my holiday cards. In my uniform. Hopefully never with my saxophone. Are you getting an idea of just how cool a teenager I was? But just to clarify, even though I sound really dorky, I was buying cards to write to friends…so like, I had friends.
I just like sending Christmas cards. I usually have them all sent off at the beginning of December. And actually last year I was so prepared (and thrifty) that I bought all of my Christmas cards for this year on clearance during post-Christmas sales. I’ve had 50 something cards waiting in my closet all year.
And now I must confess to you that Christmas is just a week away and I have yet to mail a single card.
There’s been a lot going on lately, and I’ve been pretty zapped of energy. I’m talking I can’t make it through the day without almost or actually falling asleep at least once, zapped of energy. Very unlike me. Every time I try and do anything I feel like this snowman.
And so I just haven’t managed to write any Christmas cards this year.
At first this made me feel like a total Scrooge.
I have always loved Christmas, and I’ve always loved it in a loud way. I’ve always had a tendency to be a bit of a hard-core Christmas traditionalist. I’ve always loved the music, the movies, the lights and the decorations. And I’ve always loved doing the same things the same way year after year.
Once I got sick, Christmas started changing. Many of the traditions that defined the holidays for me were now out of reach. First I couldn’t drink the chocolate milk that only showed up in our house on Christmas and Easter. Then I couldn’t eat Christmas dinner. Holiday baking wore me out and made me feel sick…I was too tired to go and cut down the tree…I wasn’t up for going anywhere to look at lights…I had to miss out on family gatherings. And worst of all, when I did make it to family gatherings I was dismayed to realize that what had once been fun was now also overwhelming and exhausting and even a bit sad because another year later everyone had moved forward while I was still stuck in the same spot I had been stuck in the year before.
I started understanding why some people didn’t like the holidays, how the holidays could be stressful.
Stressed by this stress, I figured I just needed to love Christmas even louder. I held onto it, tightly, and I immersed myself in it as much as I could, relying on it to make the terrible stuff I was going through feel less terrible. I used it as a source of hope, telling myself every year that by next Christmas things would be better. I never let go of holiday traditions, even if they created stress in my life, and even if I knew I couldn’t actually make them happen. Letting go seemed like giving up.
Well, I’ve given up now. And my holidays are so much better because of it.
I know that Christmas will never be like it used to be, but that’s okay. I know that I won’t be able to do everything I want to do each year. That’s okay, too. I no longer have any expectations for Christmas to be perfect, or for Christmas to be any particular way at all.
I still love Christmas, but I love it quietly now. I focus on what’s right in front of me, the little things that bring me joy. Like the lights in my room, or the delightfully cheesy holiday movies, or my collection of tacky Christmas sweaters. I don’t expect myself to be able to do anything and that way anything I can do is a bonus. And I don’t try and do something just because I think I should, or just because I always have.
The traditions that define our holidays are supposed to bring joy and togetherness, not cause stress. When these traditions start taking away from our celebrations instead of adding to them, then maybe it’s time to rethink them, at least until the traditions once again become something we want to do, not something we feel we have to do.
That’s why I didn’t send any Christmas cards this year.
And you know what? Christmas is still Christmas, even without Christmas cards. Just like Christmas is still Christmas without baking five different kinds of cookies. Just like Christmas is still Christmas without chocolate milk, without any food at all for that matter.
Christmas can still be Christmas no matter how life’s circumstances may change things. As long as we let it.
So whether your Christmas is quiet or loud, peaceful or busy, or a little bit of everything, I hope that you let Christmas meet you wherever you are in your life right now. I hope that the holidays end up being whatever you need them to be this year.
And I hope that you find some joy.
From me and my family (of tacky…and tachy 😉 …Christmas sweaters) to you and yours, Merry Christmas.