What do you think of first when you realize the official holiday season is upon us? For me, the thought leads to an instant smile. This season is my jam! I literally sang this title as I typed it.
I know that for many women, this season brings about feelings of stress. It all feels a little too much. I don’t want it to be this way for anyone. Not only can the holidays can be managed, but you can thrive! You can find joy equivalent to mine; I just know it.
What I like best about each holiday is its potential for magic. I love Christmas for just that reason: every day is covered in sequins. I mean this in the best possible way. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely celebrate Christmas because of the birth of Jesus, which is magical without the music, cookies and garlands. I love that God sent Jesus to Earth as a baby; a helpless, vulnerable, needy infant. He could have come to Earth in so many ways, but he came as a baby. I love Mary’s story; her vulnerability; the wonder and awe she would have felt to be selected as the earthly vessel to deliver a savior. I love the generosity of the season as well. It’s not always just gimme, gimme, gimme; it’s also give, give, give. Though I want to have a giving heart all year long, it is easier to manifest this generosity during the holidays.
To me, there is glitter in the air from the day after Thanksgiving to December 27th when our celebrating ends. There is Christmas caroling, cocoa drinking and light viewing; decorating our trees, shopping for Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child, thoughtfully selecting and wrapping gifts for each of my loved ones, the magic of stuffing a stocking for my excited children, commiserating with Bridget about our Elves on the Shelves, finding new ways to give, having Christmas dinners with friends, going skating, visiting Santa… the list goes on. There is no shortage of ways to celebrate this season. I revel in it all. I may be one of the only people who wishes she would get invited to more at this time of year.
But I know that we don’t all feel unanimously. How can we approach this season with anticipation, and not dread? I think this comes with sitting down and really prioritizing what we want. Write down what you want to accomplish for each holiday. Use backward planning to get yourself there. And exercise your no. You don’t have to attend every event. You don’t have to make your gifts from scratch. You don’t have to decorate from top to bottom. A few small pumpkins and some greenery is awesome. A classic tablescape and some stockings are great. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or a who down in whoville. You get to be you, and your unique style is something you can decide for yourself.
Overwhelmed by wrapping presents? Buy cute gift bags. Overwhelmed by the home decor? Keep it simple. Focus on your entry and your table. Overwhelmed by the menu? Cater a meal or suggest a potluck. Overwhelmed with gift-giving? Find one great gift that works for multiple people and buy a bunch. There are ways to look at celebrations in a new light.
I think often about the potential of each holiday. As a mother I want to teach my children to appreciate the meaning behind each holiday, and I want them to relish in the treasure of joy that each holiday provides as well- to savor the sparkle and shine. This is where tradition comes in. I am a tradition lover. My husband used to laugh so hard at me as a newlywed, because I would try to make a tradition out of everything. I find that traditions bind us as a family. They give us stories to tell, and moments to look forward to. I love to spend an afternoon decorating for a new season. This is my very favorite tradition. There is excitement in opening up a box and pulling out all of our treasures. It’s like welcoming old friends back into the house. Jordan loves this moment as well. Our favorite day of the year is not an actual holiday, but the day we decorate for Christmas. We turn on music, drag in all of the storage containers and spend a magical afternoon arranging and rearranging our treasures. We end the day by watching one of our favorite Christmas movies: White Christmas, The Grinch or Elf. Each holiday has a different variety of traditions, and each give us something to really look forward to as a family. Start by figuring out a couple of traditions that you really want to savor with your family, then go about doing those things.
Last year I went on strike against the fall season. After years of loving pumpkins and leaves I suddenly hated them. I think it’s because they were reminder that summer was over. But I’m feeling that animosity for pumpkins thaw, and this year I’ve reintroduced them to my home in shades of green, white and blue. It’s rebirthing an excitement for Thanksgiving, and I’m looking forward to creating some new traditions. This year Jordan and I are going to bake for our neighbors. I love what it is to feast with family, and to reflect on how blessed I am. I talk at length with the kids about being thankful.
Though Halloween has passed, it became more special to me this year. It is a newer love of mine. For several years it was a holiday that I didn’t really care about. I guess it had a bad wrap in my heart because of the evil connections. I don’t resonate with the horror-story side of Halloween, but have recently found that black, orange and purple bat garland can be quite darling, that painting pumpkins as a family is a fun tradition, and that planning out and executing thematic costumes is really exciting. Last December the kids and I all fell in love with The Greatest Showman, so we looked forward to the kids wearing these costumes all year: Jordan as Anne Wheeler, Jaxon as P.T. Barnum and Shia as the Bearded Lady. Having splurged to take the kids to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party this year, I’m already planning out costumes for the hubs and I next year. I have about 350 days to get him on board. We don’t get any trick or treaters in our condo, but our kids love going out for that bag of candy, and a few different years we’ve done this with treasured friends after a bowl of delicious soup. One year I’d love to throw a Halloween bash, complete with bobbing for apples and a maze. 2019 just might be my year.
I love Easter because of the message of the resurrection. I love that our church turns the Lenten season into a giving project that blesses a school in Zambia. I love the reminder that after the darkness of death there is life. After winter there is spring. The kids love to decorate and hunt for eggs. I love looking for trinkets for sweet baskets for the kids. I love Valentine’s Day for the celebration of love; love for my mother and sister, love between friends, love for my children, and of course love for my honey boo. The kids and I love to make cards together, and one year we created a Valentines Day tree.
The idea of creating and celebrating traditions need not wait for a holiday though. Creating magic together can happen just as easily on January 12th as it can on December 25th. We have had different traditions come and go: family game night, family reading night, Sunday sundaes. I have a hard time with making them last permanently, but I know my kids are enjoying every one of them. I am giving myself the grace to say that it’s ok if a tradition doesn’t last. It was fun while it lasted.
Pinterest can be a source of inspiration, but it can also make us feel like failures. I search for ideas, some of which I bring to fruition, but some remain only as what ifs on an online bulletin board. We may not feel like we live up to the Pinterest and Instagram beauties. A “simple” recipe turns out to have an ingredient list of 34 items, so we don’t want to attempt it. A homemade garland turns out looking as if it were created by a toddler. I often lose the steam on a project after just 10 minutes. And my pictures never live up to what I see on the ‘gram. Just a few weeks ago on Instagram I saw a kids playhouse decorated so perfectly for Halloween that it made me feel terrible about my own actual home; but I have to put myself in check. Whatever celebrations I am creating with my family are ones that are appreciated by my husband and kids. They look forward to these times as much as I do, so I’m know I’m doing a pretty good job. They have their own ideas about how we can celebrate, and when it’s possible, I’m working on saying yes. I can indulge Halloween themed slime-making. I can re-hide the eggs a million times because they are loving it each time. These are the things they will remember when they are adults. These are the moments that are magic for them. And that happiness is magic for me.
So approach these holidays by thinking about what you do enjoy, and what you can do. And then do more of those things. Our sparkle falls on a spectrum, but it lives in each of us. Embrace your sparkle ladies. Bling on.