Last weekend I quilted and taught quilting at Camp Lebanon. I quilted, helped others with their projects, slept, talked, listened, and ate. Joy! As the weekend was wrapping up I began planning time to quilt at home. I chose projects to work on and deadlines for finishing a few things. When I mentioned my plans, another quilter responded wistfully with something like, “I’ll be too busy with Christmas things to do any quilting at home.” I nodded in understanding. The activities of the Christmas season can be very time-consuming.
After hearing similar statements from a few people I began to question my initial empathy. What Christmas activities occupy so much of everyone’s time? And why, when each mentioned being busy with Christmas activities, did each person seem less than joyful about the prospect?
Many people enjoy participating in many activities, keeping busy, and making Christmas fun. Other don’t take much pleasure in the seasonally packed schedule but feel obligated to carry on holiday traditions. Either way, the Christmas season can be exhausting, leaving many regretting their choices. Maybe it’s time to look at things differently.
Many of us say “yes” to every invitation, carry on cooking and gift-giving traditions, and sometimes say “no” to something that seems to be just too much. Maybe we should reverse that. Instead of defaulting to “yes”, start with big picture goals. Then decide on and schedule activities that fulfill the goals. If an opportunity arises, ask how it will fulfill the goals set for the season. If it helps fulfill a goal, do a quick pro and con list to be sure it’s worth the effort and cost. Maybe eliminate or change the traditions that aren’t serving the purpose or that are too costly.
Years ago, one of our Christmas traditions was Cookie Day. My extended family would gather and make cookies and other Christmas treats, eat a delicious home-cooked lunch together, and pack the cookies on plates to give as gifts. My mom did most of the planning and shopping. The event was at my house. By the end of the day, my mom and I were exhausted, and we would spend hours cleaning up afterward. There were a couple of years that we continued this tradition because we felt obligated. It was tradition! But it was too costly in effort and energy. Eventuallly, we decided to fulfill our desire for family time in a way that everyone would find refreshing and fun. Now we set aside a day for bowling and a meal at a restaurant just before or after Christmas.
This year my goals for Christmas are to focus on Jesus and spend time with family. In addition, I want to land at the end of the season with as little mess as possible in my home and in my relationships. My schedule will include more time for worship, prayer, and the Word, and I will be planning at least two events where my immediate family will gather, eat, and play. At the same time, I’ll be keeping up routines at home so I can take part in other activities joyfully, without dreading the potentially disastrous shape my relationships and my house might be in if I’m too busy.
I’ve already turned down two Christmas activities. One event would not have fulfilled any of my goals for Christmas. A small part of the other event would have helped fulfill my goals, but only in tiny part. Participating in either of these events would have been counter-productive as far as my goal of maintaining my routines is concerned.
I think I’ve over-simplified a bit. There will likely be more flexibility in what I do this Christmas, but starting with goals and plans will help me reduce regrets and exhaustion.