We’re approaching the end of Advent, and even though you probably have your Christmas plans set, here are a few ideas for simple celebrations. First, consider making some adjustments to grand-scale plans, and then, savor the here and now.
Make a Few Adjustments
Is there a simple way to celebrate Advent and Christmas? Every time I consider inviting people over, this machine turns on in my head, and it churns out these huge events with long, complicated menus and all sorts of expensive extras. And so then I decide that, no, we won’t have anyone over.
But there’s got to be a simpler way. Surely I can adjust plans so that they are similar to what I’m accustomed to yet much easier to manage. So I’m going to propose a few things, and please add your ideas and experiences in the Comments section.
Don’t do dinner. Instead of inviting people for dinner, invite them for dessert and coffee or hot cider. Or invite them for some snacks and beverages early in the day so that they can stop by but then still have their evening—because so many evenings are already spoken for this time of year.
Do trim the guest list. Recently my husband and I had dinner with two friends, whereas usually there’s a group of us. And although we were sorry the others couldn’t make it, it was really a treat to have just the two friends and one conversation we could follow in a relaxed way.
Don’t host at your home. Invite a few people to meet you somewhere else for a walk and a coffee or a concert or other event that you can enjoy together.
Do remember that it can be enough to stay home with a loved one. Would you and your family member(s) really enjoy staying home rather than going out? Could you eliminate some outside event and savor an ordinary meal together, maybe adding some music in the background or a movie in the living room afterward?
Savor Here and Now
Whatever you’ve done for this holiday, consider it enough. You are probably the only person who knows exactly what you have done and how much money it cost and how much time it took. You may have a family member who enjoys judging others so that they always fall short, but otherwise, people will not be examining your life carefully to assess how well you have “done” Advent and Christmas. You’ve done what you were able to do: you sent holiday cards, or didn’t; you did lots of extra baking and cooking, or maybe not so much; you connected with people, or were unable to do so as much as you’d hoped; and so on. Show yourself grace and wisdom and say, “It is enough.”
Whatever you hoped for during this holiday, give thanks for the reality. The USA culture hypes up this holiday season to absurd proportions. Mainly, all the hype is to sell us lots of stuff—it’s really about making money. Yet if we’re not careful, that mania seeps into our heads and hearts, and without realizing it, we pump up our expectations to impossible proportions. We expect a family that usually squabbles to suddenly get along smoothly. We expect an already full schedule to make room for hours of more time for multiple extra tasks. We expect our own hearts—heavy with recent loss or health problems or relationship problems or ongoing anxiety and depression—to become light and joyous just because we string a few lights.
I think that about all we can do about these out-of-control expectations is to stop and give thanks for our reality, to name specifically our gifts and blessings and tear our focus away from the hype and the high expectations.
Whatever you have failed to accomplish during this busy season, let it go. I could easily look at every Advent/Christmas season of my life and see failure. This is true partly because I have trouble keeping my expectations and plans realistic. This is also partly true because the holiday season does not prevent the world from proceeding on its difficult course, and so in addition to holiday stress I may be down with the flu or have a funeral to go to or yet another national disaster that drives me to prayer.
So it becomes a normal part of my every holiday season to look at all of it and let it go. Give it all back to God. Give up my angst and my disappointment. Give up my desire to make everything work better.
Christmas is in a few days. Take some deep breaths, thank God for the life you have, ask for what you need, and ask especially for the hope that we cannot generate ourselves but that must come from the very heart of Divine love.