By Dana Herndon
‘Twas the night before Christmas in 2014, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, the kids were tucked all snug in their beds . . . and I almost missed it all.
I’d let myself be consumed by the planning and projects that come during the Christmas season. All the pretty pictures on Pinterest raised the bar pretty high for what I wanted for Christmas. I love to decorate for Christmas, and I Iove to bake at Christmas, and I love to cook big dinners for Christmas, and I love to have huge family get-togethers at Christmas . . .
All good things, but they almost buried me. I had built up what Christmas should be in my mind and forgotten to be present for the actual events. And in the midst of burdening myself with so many plans, most of them did not even get completed.
Even worse, I let the true meaning of Christmas slip away.
By trying to plan, plan, plan, I almost missed the magic and joy that is Christmas. Slowly, I learned—and am still learning—how to be present in the moment. Between building up the perfect scenario in my head and bowing to the demands of social media, I checked out of the actual moments. At some point, I know I made my family take at least five versions of a “candid” Christmas shot so it would look good on Facebook.
If you google “Christmas stress,” a myriad of articles pop up. This is really sad. Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. A time of celebrating our Savior coming to earth. Yet we let that message get lost in appearances and surface details.
I plan to remedy that this Christmas. First and foremost I will fix my eyes on Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. Second, I will not overload myself with expectations and plans of perfection. (Of course, I just pinned “25 Ways to Make Christmas Magical for Children” last night, so pray for me.)
Just as it is in everyday life, saying no and being selective at Christmas is okay. Focus on what celebrates Jesus and what will bring joy to you and your family.
Luckily, I got it together in time for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We spent Christmas Eve at church and had a small family get-together. We talked and laughed, and the kids play and shared their excitement. After everyone left, the kids got ready for bed, and my husband read Luke 2 to us. On Christmas Day, we did not have any plans. We spent most of the day in our pajamas, playing and relaxing. I did make a big dinner, but I enjoyed it. There was no pressure and no expectations.
I am glad our Christmas ended well, and that I didn’t let plans and expectations ruin it completely. This year, I am determined that the weeks leading up to Christmas will not be marred by unrealistic plans. I absolutely love Christmas. I love everything about it. I love the celebrations, both sacred and secular. But last year, my super plans equaled super stress, and I almost lost sight of the point of Christmas.
Perfection is just not possible, and that’s okay.
If we were perfect and capable of doing it on our own, we wouldn’t need our sweet Savior who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger over two thousand years ago.
Dana Herndon is a writer and blogger as well as an elementary and middle school teacher. She and her husband live in Georgia with their three children. In addition to teaching and writing, Dana loves to read, watch Food Network and HGTV, follow politics, and paddleboard. She blogs at danaherndon.com.
Photograph by Jill Wellington.