Of course, the lead-in to the holidays isn’t always gingerbread and snowflakes. A lot of people struggle this time of year, whether it’s because they’re lonely, depressed, stressed, or anything else.
The past few years, I’ve found myself struggling to hold it together during the holidays. I’ve mentioned it before, but with both our sets of parents split up, we wind up trying to figure out how to see everyone on Christmas without disappointing anyone and still have time for just the two of us to celebrate. Financially, Christmastime has been scary– we’re very fortunate this year to feel a bit more comfortable, but there have been years when I’ve been stressed that I couldn’t fully show my family how much I loved them with meaningful gifts. I always came down to the wire finding and buying all of those presents and it still never seemed like enough. I’d bake, decorate, send cards, and drive myself half insane trying to present my own perfect version of Christmas.
This year, I decided enough was enough. I resolved not to cry. I put an app on my phone that helped me track gift ideas and set a strict budget for every person on our list. I started seeking out those gifts in September. I delegated some. I set them all aside in the office, out of the way, and checked the person off my list. Because I started early, I was able to think of gifts I think people will really enjoy, not just some random junk because it’s that time of year to buy, buy, buy without much thought. In a way, that feels a lot better and I’m happier about it.
We started decorating early, setting aside a couple of days to put the storm windows on, the wreaths, the fans, the tree, the garland… all of it. We turn the lights on the tree and in the windows every night, and we’ve really been able to enjoy all the decorations a bit more.
We thought about last year’s Christmas rotation, considered who we saw when for Thanksgiving and Easter, and came up with our visiting game plan for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There may have been a Venn diagram involved. By some miracle, all of our parents seem to be happy with our plans: seeing Dad for dinner Christmas Eve, Mum first thing Christmas morning, Dan’s mom right after that, then his dad, then heading over to see my extended family. It’ll be a busy day, but we’ll manage. And we’ll do our best to have some time for just the two of us– mainly Mass on Christmas Eve and super early on Christmas Day.
Through it all, I’ve been careful to reflect on how fortunate we are, and that’s helped stave off my formerly-inevitable sobbing breakdown. We have each other. We have a beautiful home where we’re blessed to live in for free. We have all of our parents and siblings with us in a 10-mile radius. We have money to spend on gifts and still be able to pay our bills. There are so many people on this Earth that are happier with less… who are we to complain? I’m not saying I’m above it all– far from it, I’ve had a few angry outbursts in the last few months– but when I take a step back and really reflect, I’m amazed at how happy I am.