Thursday, December 14, 2017

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

Do you ever struggle with getting into the Christmas spirit?

“Getting into the Christmas spirit” can be hard because it’s more of a feeling than a formula. For me, it seems that the further into adulthood I have gotten, the more challenging it can be and the longer it can take to get into the Christmas spirit, compared to the years when I was a kid. We adults have way more Christmas-related responsibilities, compared to kids. They get gifts, we shop for them. They eat cookies, we make them. They decorate the tree, we re-decorate the tree.

As much as Christmas has been a huge highlight of every year for me because I love Christmas (lights in dimly-lit rooms, mysterious choral music, Home Alone, events and opportunities for socializing and seeing people I don’t see all the time), I honestly feel that Christmas often causes bouts of anxiety, and it has often produced disappointment and sadness. I don’t even mean the whole shopping, cooking, decorating, hosting, wrapping thing. I mean the stress of needing to get into the Christmas spirit. Needing to experience “Christmas” in its fullness every year. Needing to feel some magic. Needing to have at least a few little moments in which the impact of Jesus’ birth blooms in my heart, or the snow falls as carols are played and a fire crackles while you wrap presents, or you watch a cluster of children sing Christmas songs in a concert and some kid does something cute and the audience produces a collective "aaaah!", or you drink some sort of a holiday-inspired drink with friends and the atmosphere just feels special. Needing to feel that you have given something to someone in need. Needing to feel insulated by snow, protected, warm and cozy, the perimeter secured by loved ones. Needing to do all the things, see all the lights, eat all the food, hug all the people, get the best reaction from your kids when they open their presents. If I have ever fallen short of this long, obligatory list, I have tended to feel a bit depressed.

We have accumulated a variety of Christmas traditions, decorations (hello, White Rose wooden ornaments from the 1990s), song favourites (hello, Amy Grant, the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack and the Vienna Boys Choir), moments, menus, family and friends since we were little. This is beautiful, but it can also be a daunting list of things to sift through to find the Christmas spirit, with the hopes of dusting it off, sprinkling it over your head and feeling its warm glow. Add to that the sheer responsibility of creating a Christmas that makes all your childhood dreams come true for your own children, and it can feel like a stressful challenge.

Perhaps as much as we need to take the time to activate the Christmas spirit, we also shouldn’t try so hard or overthink the process. This in itself is a challenge for me as I tend to overthink everything. Perhaps instead of planning or making or buying a million things, we could try keeping time open for opportunity. Perhaps instead of needing to do all the things, we focus on doing just we are able to do and leave at the door any guilt for what doesn’t happen. Perhaps we can believe that the spirit of Christmas can come in many forms and in many ways.

If you are finding it hard this year to get into the Christmas spirit, just know that the Christmas spirit is something that never really leaves us. It’s within us, not necessarily attached only to objects and emotions but activated by moments and memories, old and new traditions, and most of all, the love of God that covers everything like a warm blanket. I try to remind myself of the fortitude of the Whos in Whoville, the tall and the small, who had a sparkle of Christmas spirit within their hearts even when they lost everything. No matter what life throws at you, no matter who you miss at Christmas, no matter how you feel about Christmas this particular year—whether you are grasping to hold onto it before it passes by or just can’t wait until it’s over—don’t ever give up on the Christmas spirit, on the magic of love and the opportunities that the heart of Christmas can bring to you. It’s in you, it never leaves, and in whatever way specific to you, it can be uncovered to shine bright this Christmas!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas season, full of the Christmas spirit!