When it comes to Christmas, I challenge you to find a more diehard fan than myself. Growing up, I often “joked” (not really a joke) that I wanted to dedicate an entire room in my future house to year-round Christmas decorations. My parents gave each Mechling child a small artificial tree for our bedrooms, and we got to decorate them each Christmas however we chose. (Cue the Hallelujah chorus!) Christmas music gives me immediate goosebumps and elicits longing sighs.
Why do I love Christmas so much? Why does anyone love Christmas? I find it no coincidence that we celebrate this holiday at the very end of the year. We’ve just gone through eleven months of life (whatever that looks like), and as soon as December hits, I feel like the world relaxes just a smidgen and we all give in to the giddy anticipation of December 25th.
I love the decorations. I love the shopping. I love the baking. I love giving presents to loved ones and watching their faces light up (hopefully). Most of all, though, I love the traditions and nostalgia of each Christmas past. I remember having Christmas Eve sleepovers with my sisters and fighting to stay asleep for longer than an hour at a time. I remember waiting for what seemed like an eternity to hear my parents say we could come downstairs, only to be halted halfway down the steps for a family Christmas morning photo. I remember my grandparents coming over in the afternoon and patiently sitting through our parade of Christmas loot.
I don’t consider myself an overly emotional person, but Christmas is something I vehemently guard and treasure. Any change to Christmas threatens to throw me into a downward spiral. Perhaps you’ve felt this way too. Christmas can seem very different after you’ve married, gone through a breakup, had children, moved away from family, lost loved ones, or experienced any other life-altering event. How do you cope? How does Christmas continue to be Christmas, even if a piece of your life has changed since last December 25th?
The first thing I’ve learned about coping with Christmas change is to go back to the real reason we’re celebrating in the first place: the birth of Jesus. Christmas is our chance to stop our crazy lives and remember that we wouldn’t have the hope of salvation without the birth of that baby in Bethlehem. As Christians, we should be celebrating that fact every day, but Christmas is a special time to really dwell on the ramifications of that event and praise God for this most perfect of gifts.
The second thing I’ve learned is to try as best I can to quell my emotions and count my blessings. Can I always spend Christmas with my family now that I’m married? No, but I’m not celebrating Christmas alone. (Plus, we get three Christmases on those years!) Maybe you’ve had a rough year financially and it will be a little barren under your tree, if you are even able to have one at all. Remember that as enjoyable as it is to give, it’s not the whole holiday. Trust that God has given you the exact means to provide the exact joy and merriment He wants for you and your loved ones this Christmas. Christmas doesn’t have a quota that must be met in order to be celebrated.
The third thing I’ve learned is to not hold so fast to traditions, and instead accept life’s current chapter and discover new traditions. I don’t get to have Christmas Eve sibling slumber parties anymore, but I do get to channel that same anticipation toward my husband and son. If relationships in your life have changed or gone away, that doesn’t mean Christmas is canceled. If you aren’t able to deck the halls like you always have, or you’re not able to bake all the right cookies, or you don’t wake up in your house on Christmas morning, I understand how you could be blue, but I also know that Christmas will still be there when you wake up on December 25th. You and you alone have the power to make or break your personal Christmas experience. Embrace whatever Christmas looks like this year and be prepared to come away with some amazing memories.
I’m embarrassed to admit that the song, “Where Are You, Christmas?” from the Grinch movie has made me cry on more than one occasion, always when I’m facing a “changed Christmas.” My last Christmas at home before I went off to college, my last Christmas before I got married, my last Christmas before my son was born. Sobbing. The song is about finding the joy in Christmas, no matter where you are in life. The one line in the song that always sticks out to me was really the inspiration behind this blog:
“My world is changing
Does that mean Christmas changes too?“
Christmas will change many times throughout your life. It’s up to you to find the new beauty and waiting nostalgia in each change. It won’t always be a painless experience, but open yourself up to the Christmas God has specifically gifted you this year and prepare to be filled with the light of the season and the eternal hope of His ultimate gift to us: His Son.