It's Christmas eve and I'm up early. Of course, I've remembered a few things I still need to do/get before tomorrow and am planning my trip to the store as I write this. And reading people's Facebook posts about cleaning and wrapping and frantically getting ready for big family celebrations made me wistful for a big family celebration. But this year it's just us - the six of us - alone on Christmas. I used to think that would be the WORST feeling, to not have any family around to celebrate on Christmas or Thanksgiving or any other holiday. But then I learned the worst feeling is not having your kids around. Thank God I get them back for Christmas eve and day. I've lived in fear of the "kid-free" Christmas since my divorce and so far, it hasn't happened. Lucky for me, their dad and I are always able to work something out. And the kids WANT to be here on Christmas. But reading about how others are celebrating with big, extended family celebrations always makes me a little sad. Sure, I don't have to clean as thoroughly or cook for hours or wrap extra presents, but I'd still rather have a big, crazy, chaotic family celebration with my extended family.
It's easy to focus on what we DON'T have at Christmas - enough money, family to celebrate with, time to shop, wrap, cook, bake - and I'm just as guilty at the next person of focusing too much on the "stuff" of Christmas rather than the spirit of Christmas. I spend HOURS shopping and choosing the presents for my kids that both fit my budget and they desire. I always go over my budget and end up with a stress stomachache about it. I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about fitting everything in - the requisite cookie baking and decorating, the drive to see holiday lights, the parties, ordering the Christmas jammies, etc. More than anything I worry about the TIME I spend with my kids now that I have to share them.
I do believe Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and all that, but hey, even he got gifts, so there's that. But more than the Christmas story about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, for me, Christmas embodies a time spent with the people you love the most and being grateful for what you DO have. We've had a rough year financially, even to the point of nearly losing our house, and I've felt an enormous amount of guilt for not being able to give my kids the experiences of their peers. But it's so trivial compared to knowing what we DO have. A loving family, time to spend with them, good times and a lot of laughter. That gets us through every single day and I'd rather laugh a hundred times a day than have a hundred dollars every day.
I love hearing about people's Christmas traditions. Groups of women getting together to bake a certain cookie or make a certain traditional treat. Women-only shopping trips that include a special Christmas show or event. Ugly sweater parties. Seeing The Nutcracker. Visiting Santa. We have some traditions of our own, that have evolved through the years and through the blessing of our blended family. For one, building a "fort" in Harrison's room is standard. We even have the material for the "tent" part of it - and ironically, it's a giant tablecloth from my first wedding (we got ink on it and had to buy it from the rental company! I never thought we'd find a use for it!). We MUST buy chocolate Advent calendars before Dec. 1. And fill our adorable Advent house that Mimi bought us with chocolate treats for every day in December leading up to the 25th. Everyone gets new Christmas jammies and they have to arrive early in the month so we can bask in the adorableness of them all month long. We decorate the same $12 tree each year that I bought on sale 90% off early one January. We hang artwork the kids created in kindergarten. We get a new ornament each, sometimes going on a special trip to pick them out, sometimes being surprised by mommy. We drive around to look at lights. We decorate sugar cookies - sure, this year I ran out of time and bought those ridiculous pre-cut ones, but STILL. We count down the days till Christmas (the kids with anticipation, me with "how many shopping days" mentality). And Christmas day comes........we film the kids coming downstairs to see what Santa brought, we unwrap the gifts under the tree, then we empty stockings. Later, we sit around amongst paper, candy wrappers, and way too much commercial packaging with that slightly stunned "that's it?" look on our faces because it's all over so early, and the anticipation always beats the actual event by a long shot. But still..........
We all get that blessed day where the main focus is on those you love. And we're truly blessed that we're healthy, have a beautiful home, lots of friends, a good life. Merry Christmas to all!