I am taking up Jeff Goins’ suggestion to write about post-Christmas blues (see Goinswriter.com).
Rather than having to overcome the blues, I prefer to anticipate and avoid the post-Christmas blues altogether. Here are some things I do.
1. I look at Christmas as a season, not a day.
Throughout the month of December I plan and attend fun events, making memories to cherish. This year we attended a Christmas play called Home for Christmas. We visited a festive “Christmas village” where there were lights, carollers, a scavenger hunt, and even a Sherlock Holmes mini-drama. We enjoyed a cup of tea/coffee as we came in from the rain. Yes it was cold and rainy, but memorable.
Our family was out of town for the holidays, so on Christmas morning we had breakfast with a group of people who, for various reasons, were not surrounded by family on this day.
2. I determine to be flexible.
Nothing can ruin Christmas like hurt feelings. I understand that I need to be open to doing things differently from year to year. My children are grown and married, so I need to consider their other families when we plan our “get together” time. I refuse to insist on a particular “day” for Christmas celebrations. In fact, this year I did not know until a few hours beforehand, when we would be opening gifts. (That is almost too much flexibility, even for me!)
3. I concede that the turkey dinner is not sacred.
Some years we have changed things up at family gatherings and not had turkey! One year we did take-out–pizza and chicken. It saved the women a lot of work, but the men voiced a preference for the old-fashioned dinner. The next year we had turkey dinner, but we have thrown in a chili cook-out too!
Our personal family tradition is to open gifts on Christmas Eve. We like the evening atmosphere. But after a day’s work, the thought of preparing to celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year” is less than thrilling for me. As a woman, I feel it is my role to bring the “magic” to Christmas. I took note that our children had no particular fascination with the turkey dinner, but they loved a wide selection of appetizers which I could pick up at the grocery store and heat and serve alongside veggies and dessert. I lit candles and turned on the Christmas music and we were ready.
They next day I cooked the turkey. I have also roasted the turkey on New Year’s day instead of Christmas and substituted a fondue on Christmas Eve. As an alternative on Christmas Day, I make a special brunch and later in the day, while we are playing games, I serve hor d’ oeuvres.
4. I prepare ahead.
I cannot stress this enough–a lesson I have learned over the years. My goal is to have as relaxed a Christmas as possible. So, I try and finish my shopping by the first week of December. No last minute rushing around for gifts–only some leisurely browsing for stocking stuffers or chocolates.
I decorate during the first week of December, in keeping with my theme of a “Christmas Season.” That is also when I do the major cleaning.
There are so many things that cannot be anticipated, so I try and nail down what I can ahead of time. This year I realized I had agreed to a specialist appointment on December 21. I cancelled it, because I didn’t need the extra stress.
One thing I did not do ahead of time was Christmas baking. My daughter-in-law wanted to bake cookies with me the Saturday before Christmas so that she could take fresh cookies with her the next day when she and our son left for the island to attend her family gathering. This was our first time baking together. I tried to prepare ahead but in the end, all I was really able to do was be sensitive to what she wanted. When she and our son showed up at noon on Saturday, I asked my husband to cook breakfast while we found recipes, divided up what we needed between us, ate and then went to different stores to buy ingredients.
5. I define my goals, modify my expectations, and throw in a pinch of faith.
My goal is to have a happy family time. Where I am able, I want to bring joy to others.
On the afternoon of December 24th I was booked to sing at a seniors’ residence. When I came home my husband and I had A& W take-out. We were both happy with that. I am blessed with a man who is easy to satisfy. We called his family on the phone and discovered they were having McDonald’s burgers! His family and mine live in central Canada. We live on the coast, a three hour flight away. Needless to say, we don’t often see each other at Christmas. We have all had to modify our expectations of “family Christmas.” While we talked I emailed them recent photos to enjoy. We then tried to FaceTime with our son and his family who live in Ohio but they were busy that evening.
On Friday, December 21st, the day before the big cookie bake, I decided to put the turkey in the oven. My son, who lives nearby, called me when he got off work and asked when we were having the turkey. This had been the dilemma, because we wanted to celebrate Christmas on Saturday before he and his wife left for the island. But Saturday we were baking cookies. I told him the turkey was in the oven. I could hear the smile in his voice, as he responded, “That sounds good.” I invited him and his wife over for turkey dinner. Then I told my husband that I knew they would ask to open gifts after dinner. After dinner I announced that I had a problem. “Dad” wanted to open gifts. So we did.
Now I look back over the week and say it was good. No blues for me. I think the secrets is to realize Christmas is much more than the climactic opening of gifts. It is a time to show our love in our togetherness before and after the great moment. Share a peppermint mocha at Starbucks. Take a drive to see Christmas lights, play games, or gather around the annual Christmas puzzle till the wee hours of morning. And if you can, resist the urge to witness the irreverent dismantling of Christmas in stores on Boxing Day.