My husband and I aren’t what anyone would call cooks, so our recent decision to make soups for ourselves was a proud moment. We’re up to taco, chicken and rice, potato, and vegetable beef. This is progress. I think our adult children wish we would have tried harder in the kitchen while they were growing up, but I’m happy to report they were never malnourished. (I don’t think.)
But our make-soup decision presented a size-of-pot crisis. Our largest pans weren’t big enough for as much soup as we wanted to make all at once. You see, we like leftovers. We like them a lot.
We ordered a larger pot, but when it arrived, we realized we could feed our entire extended family out of it, and maybe everyone in our neighborhood. So we ordered a pot the next size down. It’s big enough, but not gigantic.
What’s this culinary tale got to do with Christmas? We didn’t have a one-pot-fits-all situation. And I don’t think Christmas is a one-size-fits-all proposition.
I’m not wild about every aspect of the now-traditional American celebration. Others enjoy the season’s every minute and opportunity, and that’s okay. But I think I’d be happy if every other year we woke up on Christmas Day to Linus’s reading of the Christmas story, church bells on our way to a place of worship, a few twinkly lights and candles, a shared meal, and especially grateful hearts for the gift of God’s Son. Any outreach to others would also be meaningful, and, okay, I’d probably watch a favorite Christmas movie or two. But I’d want it all on one day. I like to believe a one-day celebration would give me the reserves to manage the extended holiday we’d still have every two years.
Realistically for some of us, however, I’m advocating limiting participation to those Christmas traditions most meaningful to us, not participating based on expectation or obligation.
For instance, I don’t do cookie exchanges (at least for the obvious reason that I also don’t bake), and I don’t always put up a tree (my grandkids have their own trees, so don’t feel sorry for them). You might decide to decline a party invitation or two, forgo sending Christmas cards, or buy a tree from a local vendor instead of going the way of Clark Griswold.
I do make sure I see family and friends, give a limited number of gifts, attend my church’s services (like always), and display decorative items and nativities. But I also close my eyes and ears to what’s too much for me. I don’t watch every Hallmark Channel Christmas movie! I DVR TV shows and fast-forward past commercials. I avoid those early-bird Christmas displays in stores. And I do what’s necessary to avoid tiring of the beautiful music of Christmas.
I avoid these things not because I’m a Scrooge, a snob toward any tradition, a wimp, or someone with a short attention span. I’m none of those things. I do it because I know that if I don’t, I risk dimming my joy. Well before Christmas Day, I’ll be glad the celebration will soon be over. For me, much of it will have been too much.
Yet the Bible tells me Jesus’s birth was in many ways just the beginning. His coming wasn’t too much; it was God’s exactly right-size gift. And I think he wants my celebration of his gift to be exactly right for me.
I support all-in celebrators! They make Christmas special in so many ways, especially for children. For them, the season has no mere expectation or obligation. This is a thrilling time, infused with the spiritual meanings behind so many of the plans and events they embrace. But I also appreciate the understanding that, when it comes to celebrating Christmas, one size does not fit all. For some of us, Christmas joy is best made and preserved in a different-sized pot.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Markus Spiske, used with permission