Don’t let the guilt gremlin hassle you this Christmas! Holiday guilt is an annual syndrome that can strike you down if you let it. Most of us have finally acknowledged that we aren’t perfect, so why do we succumb to the fallacy that we have to organize and orchestrate a perfect Christmas every year, practically singlehandedly?!
Should you still think you are not doing your best, begin to ask what you do accomplish, not what you leave undone. For example, who buys Christmas gifts for your husband’s parents, you or your husband? If you shop every year for a gift for your in-laws, you are among the 99 percent of wives who do. Why do our husbands assume that we can pick out the perfect gift for their parents, when they have known them so much longer than we have?
One woman I know discovered that her husband knew better than she did what to get his mother. After much questioning and prodding to discover what her mother-in-law really wanted, Kathy finally confided to her husband, “I guess the only gift we can give your mother is a check or a gift certificate.”
“That will never do,” her husband protested. “No matter how many times she says she doesn’t want anything at all, the real message from Mom is that she doesn’t want to be a bother. However, if we gave her a check or gift certificate, she would incorrectly assume that we didn’t care enough for her to select a gift. What she would really like is a new handbag. I know just the kind she prefers, too, so I’ll pick it out.”
What about the gifts for your children? The majority of wives buy these, too. Ed complained every year about the amount of money his wife spent on toys for their children. Exasperated one Christmas, she said, “All right, then, you go shopping for them!”
Ed ended up spending three times the amount his wife usually did on gifts for the children. (This kept him from complaining on the amount she spent in future years, though!) He purchased gifts that were not only educational but also stimulating to their minds, and the children were thrilled. “Dad, you chose really neat gifts,” they universally proclaimed.
The two above situations are exceptions to the general rule that husbands and fathers expect their wives to do all the planning and shopping. It is up to us women to establish ground rules for ourselves. If we are realistic about our own expectations, then we will be able to relax and not expect too much of ourselves. After all, we cannot singlehandedly conjure up a perfect Christmas. Thus, by observing some of the following tips, we may save ourselves a lot of aggravation!
Shortcuts are viable options.
It is not engraved in stone that everything has to be made from scratch. You do not have to sew all your children’s clothes yourself. It is permissible, and maybe even more practical, to order from a catalog or visit the discount store for some items. Likewise, baking can be made easier. After years of baking Christmas cookies from mixed and rolled-out dough, my granddaughters and I discovered frozen cookie dough! Not only is it easier to use, but the containers give illustrated directions on how to make angels, Santas, and Christmas trees from it, as well as the regular cookie-cutter design.
In visiting bake sales around Christmas time, I also discovered some very original and easy ideas for the baked goods I take to my own church’s children’s parties. I discovered that children love cupcakes with candy canes stuck on top and plain round cookies with faces made out of candies. They also like green wreaths made out of Rice Krispies and marshmallows, studded with red cinnamon candies.
Keep your priorities straight.
We all have favorite holiday traditions. Finding a reasonably-priced yet perfect gift for everyone on my long list is especially important to me. That is why I keep a big box in my closet, into which I put Christmas gifts all year. Whenever I am shopping, I keep an eye peeled for something someone in my family would like. For example, one member of my family has a hippopotamus collection. Such figurines are few and far between; therefore, I am constantly looking for them and have thus far managed to find one per year: at garage sales, flea markets, specialty gift shops, or in catalogs.
Another priority for me is sending notes or letters with my Christmas cards. Since there are more than 100 people on my list, I begin this project a month before the holiday. Many times I have been tempted to forego this annual tradition; however, I hear from most people only once each year. Receiving a Christmas card with just a signature and no note is very depressing to me. So I try to write at least a few lines on most of my cards.
Remember your husband’s Christmas traditions, too.
We used to think my husband was the original Scrooge. Most Christmas celebrations seemed to leave him cold. Then one year we were astonished when he suggested having a taffy pull on Christmas Eve. We spent the evening pulling taffy and getting it all over ourselves and the floor. But it resulted in such merriment that we are still talking about it years later.
In one family that we know, the husband writes the Christmas cards. He has beautiful penmanship and takes a real interest in shopping for unique cards each year.
In another family, no Christmas would be complete without stew on Christmas Eve and cornbread dressing on Christmas day. These are the husband’s favorite foods, and he prepares them both, too, thus helping his wife with her cooking.
Remember to enjoy the holiday.
You will need a break during the busy holiday season. Treat yourself to a leisurely afternoon at the beauty salon, getting a manicure or facial or new hairdo.
If your husband is not a good gift-giver and your children are too small to buy you special gifts, you might do some shopping for yourself. A friend of mine always buys herself a few small gifts and wraps them up and puts them under the tree. This curious habit began after her mother died. Before then, her mother would always send her several lovely little gifts at Christmas. Her first Christmas after her mother’s death was terribly depressing. So now she includes herself on her shopping list. Fortunately, her son recently married and told his wife about his mother’s habit. Unknown to my friend, her new daughter-in-law intends to buy her several little gifts every Christmas from now on.
Provide nourishment for your spiritual life.
The busier you are, the more you need to come apart with your Lord before you come apart emotionally or physically. Take time to recharge your spiritual batteries.
A candlelight church service will provide a wonderful boost, as will a live presentation of Handel’s Messiah. Carols around the twinkling Christmas tree will help, too. So will a quiet walk in the snow while the stars twinkle overhead. If there is no snow, you might drive around and look at people’s outdoor Christmas decorations.
We all have unrealistic expectations of what the ideal Christmas should be like. We want the perfect decorations, the perfect menu, and joyful guests. Yet life is far from perfect. Curiously enough, my most imperfectly planned Christmas celebrations usually turned out to be the most spiritually uplifting.
For example, one of my grown sons was seriously ill nearly the whole month of December. He required round-the-clock nursing on my part for two weeks before Christmas. Thus I did not have either the time or the energy to devote to my usual Christmas preparations. Fortunately, I had bought and wrapped all the gifts ahead of time.
When my teenage granddaughters inquired if I would have to call off the Christmas celebration at our house, I promised them we would manage it somehow. Thereupon they came over and baked many of our traditional Christmas goodies—without my help. They also trimmed the Christmas tree and decorated the house.
My husband spelled me in caring for our son one evening so I could go out to dinner with a female friend. Just getting out of the house for a few hours was a break.
Fortunately, he recovered two days before the holiday and was even able to go out for a couple hours with his brother on Christmas Eve to do some belated Christmas shopping. That Christmas we all thanked God for his recovery and his being able to enjoy the festivities. Having him on the road to good health again was the best gift any of us could have received.
No matter what the holiday season brings your way, focusing on the Christ of Christmas will help you to avoid the hassle that so often accompanies the holiday season!