How to Have a Merry Imperfect Christmas
Last night as I was watching one of my many Hallmark Christmas movies (more about that later), one of the characters in the movie made a comment that hit the nail right on the head. She said ” The problem with the holidays, is that the good stuff is always better than what it is and the bad stuff is always worse than what it is”. Now, before you start thinking Hallmark movies are cheesy and predictable, let’s look at how “the bad stuff is always worse than what it is” . How many of us watch a movie, or the neighbor’s house down the road, or even worse, look on social media and believe that there are actually people out there that have a PERFECT holiday? I want to address a potential sensitive subject, that most likely effects majority of us. The fact is that, Christmas is not always a time of perfect magic and perfect celebration. But we can still have a Merry Imperfect Christmas.
Life is not perfect
Who ever believed that life is perfect for some, need to get their heads examined. In reality not a single person has a perfect life. I mean come on! who has a picture perfect family life? Who has a perfect relationship like in the Hallmark movies? None of us do, even though some seem to come pretty dang close. It appears as if life happens all year long, but then comes Christmas season. The season when we start imagining that things should or could be different. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in miracles. Actually I am a believer, and this is why I believe that life was not intended to be perfect.
The Birth of Christmas Celebration
Let’s look at Christmas through history for a minute. For centuries long before the birth of Christ, people all over the world celebrated with different traditions, during the month of December. Up in the Northern part of Europe and the Scandinavian countries, people celebrated the Winter Solstice, December 21. The darkest day of the year. People would celebrate with light in symbol of the return of the sun from darkness, for 12 days straight. This is how long it would take to burn down a big log that was brought home. In the ancient Rome people celebrated during the month of December with big festivity for end of harvest time. It wasn’t until the early 400 A.D. when Pop Julius replaced all the pagan holidays with the celebration of the birth of Christ. It took several hundred years following that, before the world really fully embraced the traditional Christmas celebration season as we now know it now. During the middle ages when majority of people were suppressed and poor, helping the needy became a token of goodwill by the rich. It wasn’t until 1870 when Christmas became an official Federal holiday in America.
Some of the imperfections
Unemployment or some sort of financial hardship, loneliness, divorce and family conflicts, battling with both mental or physical illness, and loss of some sort. There are many other forms of challenges and problems, nevertheless they are just as hard and heart breaking. To come back to the above movie quote, yes, during the holidays these difficulties feel worse than they other time of the year. When we are battling with anything or faced with the unknown, nothing seems to be “merry and bright…”. All we do see is that which we wish was different and yet have no control over.
Then What’s so Merry and Bright?
Whether you are a believer or not, this time of year is a time for reflection. In ten days from now the darkest day will be behind us and we can celebrate the light. What better way to celebrate the light than the birth and coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In all reality the true meaning of Christmas is all about hope and faith. I have to admit, I personally have had Christmases when I didn’t believe there was much hope to be desired, and I have had years when I once again started believing in miracles. I think most of us agree, that life is just a giant roller coaster. Our job is to hang in there for dear life!! With all the disappointments of unfulfilled wishes, there are a few actions we can take individually for a brighter season .
Don’t Let your imagination get the best of you
Sometimes we have to be honest with ourselves. We like to create images and ideas that are just not true. For instance, money does not solve all problems. I admit, money does solve many problems, I know that from personal experiences where we had years of much less than sufficient. But by all means having lots of stuff and a thick wallet does not guarantee a merry Christmas. On the contrary, I have seen in other people’s lives what problems money can also cause. Being honest with ourselves means to me, that I am honest with what I truly think is important. Sending the perfect Christmas card may be important to my neighbor or my second cousin that I never see, but in fact that may not be the case for me. Then why do I get stressed when I get a perfect – (specially the once with a photo of their family that everyone is happy in it) Christmas card in the mail? Is it the mere thought that I wish that I had taken the time and effort to, gather my family, make everyone smile (even the 2 year old), and had the pictures printed, signed and mailed?
Let go of your fears
We live with constant inadequacy. In this modern world with social media, we create fears and stresses that really don’t need to be there. We need to let go of our anxieties and distorted ideas that are neither truths nor realities. We may fear that we are the only ones that can’t afford the latest and the greatest. Fear of loneliness that might force us to stick around with people even if they are toxic. Neither is the fear of not fitting in, a good enough excuse to avoid Christmas party at work or the local town hall. Trust me when I say I know what it feels like when fear robs us from peace. And I have learned that when I replace fear with peace, that is when I can accept things as they are , and not as they should be. When we approach our circumstances with understanding we let go of our deepest fears.
Not sure if I could count how often I have heard people tell me to accept change. Yes, he was right when Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ”. Sometimes change means, accepting that we cannot change those around us, no matter how hard we try. Other times, change might mean as we all go thru the different stages in our life, to not constantly look back and wish for things as they were. It is real easy to look back when our kids were young and remember how Christmas was such an exciting time of the year for us all. And now the same kids are burdened with the cares of life. Ironically looking back I also realize those days had their challenges too. It seems as if health and financial problems were our constant companion back then. Losing a loved one is a big change, especially around the holidays. I have myself lost a close family member of mine and been forced to learn and cope with the change. I also know that loss comes in many forms not just death. Either way it is not easy.
Even when things don’t seem merry and bright there are things around us that are still good. Things that can help us to be uplifted as much as the next person. Where we live, every year the Primary Children’s hospital in Utah throw a big fundraising Christmas festival. The festival is called “Festival of Trees”. Each year they make thousands of dollars for the hospital by generous donors from all over the community. The money helps to aid in the Charity program they have at the hospital for patients that cannot afford to pay their bills. These last few years Robert and I have made a tradition of going to this Festival. Each year that we have gone, I have been just as amazed on the hours people spend to lighten the burden of others. There are Christmas trees, wreaths, ginger bread houses, quilts and so much more that are donated for the fundraising and it is just an absolute beautiful site. A reminder that there is still so much good left in this world. A reminder that when we reach out to others, that’s when we get to experience the true joy of the Season.
Sometimes we need to step back and take timeout from all the hustle and bustle of the season (especially anything that is toxic). Practicing mindfulness and stopping the self-criticism of ourselves and others can be hard at times. But mindfulness reminds us to stop and be in the present moment. It helps us to change our perspective towards life. I don’t claim this to be easy. On the contrary I speak from experience when I say it is hard. Yet I am always pleasantly surprised what I discover when I step back and look at life from the current moment. Even in the very minute of a great difficulty, I can find peace. Being mindful and in the present, helps me to feel more compassionate towards others and less self-involved. It also helps me to put my situation in a better perspective. Which then gives me the ability to be respectful and patient towards myself and others.
Perfect or not it’s possible to be merry
As we get closer to Christmas day, regardless of our circumstances and struggles, I hope we can all step back and realize that perfection is not attainable for anyone. The idea of a perfect Christmas dinner, perfect family setting, perfect gifts or any other perfect pictures in our minds only belong in the Hallmark movies. Life is more like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Thru all its complications, we can find peace and joy. We just need to look at the Star of Bethlehem that shone so bright for us all and still does.