He couldn’t be serious, but my husband seemed quite serious when he declared, “If that’s how you are at Christmas, we won’t celebrate it.” What was I doing wrong? This wasn’t the joyful time I had anticipated.
We had only been married a few months, and as our first Christmas together approached, I became increasingly tired, pressured, and grouchy. I was also lonely. My husband was going to school and working full time with a two hour commute, so he was rarely home, leaving me alone in a small trailer with no transportation. Since he was a mailman, he was working overtime seven days a week to keep up with the holiday rush. Yes, I was lonely, but I felt I was learning to cope. I kept my environment bright and cheerful, put up decorations, played Christmas music, turned on the lights, and kept my entertainment positive and up-beat, avoiding sad tear-jerkers. I planned things to do and kept busy. What helped the most was finding another neighbor who’s husband also worked late. We spent many evenings together happily working on projects.
Though I was coping with being alone during the Christmas season, I wasn’t very happy, and I certainly wasn’t peaceful. Deep down I knew this is what my husband meant when he referred to how I was at Christmas. Didn’t he understand what a busy, demanding time Christmas is for a woman? At Relief Society I saw other women becoming increasingly tired and pressured as Christmas approached, so it wasn’t just me. Was that a good excuse, though, to push myself to exhaustion— everyone else is doing it. Maybe he was right. This wasn’t how to celebrate Christmas.
I felt so pressured that I made little time to study the scriptures, pray, or meditate. My spinning mind was beyond hearing the soft whispering of the Spirit, and my heart had little room for my Savior. What was I filling my time and heart with? I looked at my long list: I had Christmas cards to get out complete with personal notes, baking and shopping to do, presents to make, gifts to wrap, decorations to put up, special foods to cook, treats to make and give to neighbors, and packages to mail. No wonder my husband thought I was losing my mind– I was! What made me think I could do three months worth of activities in three weeks? Maybe I did need to change my ways.
Since then, I have given up trying to “make Christmas” for everyone. Filled with endless expectations, I was so busy trying to do and make things that I lost perspective. Christmas isn’t just traditions and things, but a special time to remember and feel Christ’s love for us. As a mother, taking the time to nurture my spirit and invite the spirit of our Savior into our home was the greatest gift I could give my family. Also, I realized that the greatest gift I could give my Savior was to allow His love to fill my heart as I gave service to others all through the year, instead of trying to cram good deeds into the few weeks before Christmas.
This clearer perspective began to change my life. Over the years I began to simplify, keeping those things which brought me peace and joy and letting go of all the rest. Now I give gift certificates, order a few toys long before Christmas, send cards with a basic Christmas letter, put up a few special decorations, and cook a simple dinner.
Finally, Christmas has become a time of peace and joy as I have learned to set more reasonable expectations for myself. Now, as I listen to beautiful Christmas music, I try to remember my Savior and let myself feel the peace He came to bring us.