I think I’ve found the key to a perfect Christmas!
Yes, its true.
I know I blogged last year that there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas (and goodness knows that last year was far from perfect), but I was wrong!
There is such a thing as a perfect Christmas!
The thing is this, my husband and I come from two very different cultures. I’m not just talking about the fact that he is Croatian-Bosnian and I’m American. I mean, his idea of celebration and my idea of celebration are diametrically opposed to one another. This has usually led to some sort of disagreement every Christmas.
This year we both decided that it will be a peaceful one. Here is how we’ve begun our first perfect Christmas.
1. Identify your expectations
My idea of Christmas is the whole package. Lights, decorations, big colorful tree, lots of little gifts, bulging stockings, pretty music….atmosphere, smells…the whole 9 yards and then some. This was the kind of Christmas I remember growing up and it has literally defined the whole season for me.
But our expectations can easily become idols. We can easily allow our definition of Christmas to completely overshadow what it is truly meant to be – about Jesus.
Not only that, our expectations can run roughshod over our spouse’s idea of what Christmas should be, and rob him of what makes it special.
2. Identify your spouse’s expectations
My husband’s idea of Christmas is food.
In fact, I realized this year that my husband would be very happy if Christmas looked exactly like Thanksgiving. A great dinner, minimal fuss, close family time, and a totally relaxed day.
This is how his family always celebrated Christmas – gifts were almost an after thought: a chocolate bar, socks, something needful, or perhaps a small toy. It certainly wasn’t the abundance we see today.
Defining your spouse’s expectations will help you blaze a trail to compromise that will help make this season special for everyone.
3. Plan ahead
Christmas for me has been a mixture of childlike anticipation and trepidation. Trepidation because it was always the elephant in the room. We didn’t talk about it because we didn’t want to argue. But eventually it would come up and by then it was too late to be calm.
This year we addressed it early and decided to be proactive about it. We didn’t want to argue any longer, and we knew there had to be a path to peace somewhere, somehow. Sure, the discussion was a little louder in some parts than others – but it was productive.
Planning ahead helps you to define what you will or will not do.
It is so much easier now to navigate a clear trail! I have always expected him to shop with me. I have always viewed this as a family affair. But with the unusual stress of his job, he really doesn’t need that added pressure. So, that expectation is laid down, I will do the shopping, and he will be happier and more relaxed.
4. Find common ground
My husband isn’t exactly crazy about the gifts part of Christmas. It makes him uncomfortable to place emphasis there. He’d rather have lots of deserts (have I ever mentioned that he likes his deserts?).
This year we decided to buy something for the house we truly need, and then buy each other something small. We’re doing much the same with the kids. The fact is, our kids don’t need more toys or clothes. We don’t need more “stuff” either – but our walls are practically bare. They need some pretty pictures and decorations.
We were both happy with the compromise and in the end, its productive and useful.
5. Redefine normal
Over the years I have begun to realize the fact that each family must have its own culture, like a marriage of tradition. What worked for us growing up can’t possibly work for my family now. My husband’s job often requires him to work on Christmas. Sometimes he’s on graveyard shift that week, so Christmas Day is usually not at all what I’d have expected.
But that’s our normal. I can either allow it to bum me out every year, or I can accept it and work with it. The second option is obviously the best. But how?
I first prepare my heart ahead of time. I have laid down expectations, relaxed on the decorating, spend hours planning deserts, buy gifts ahead of time throughout the year so that it doesn’t put pressure on our time and budget, and I bother him with the details as little as possible. This new normal has made it a lot more peaceful around here this year.
Actually – he is happy and very thankful for this new normal!
6. Establish new traditions
This can be quite fun! Try a new one out each year, see if it works. If it doesn’t, scrap it. I tried doing Advent with my kids – it failed miserably. I would often forget to light the candle, the constant change of my husband’s shifts would sometimes interrupt our morning routine — there were a million reasons why it didn’t work. So, this year I’m doing something new (you’ll have to check back later to find out what…and whether or not it worked!)
Do a Polar Express party
Do a Christmas movie marathon
Drive around and visit Christmas lights
Do a Christmas Eve slumber party under the tree
There are a million things you can do. I have a few ideas I can’t wait to share!
7. Take time to remember
But in all our efforts to make Christmas a perfect fit for our families, there is one central Figure that we must never forget.
If all it is to us is a time to celebrate, be with family, eat good food and buy our kids the big toys they’ve wanted all year, we’ve turned it into a celebration of our own hedonistic desires. Christmas was never meant to be consumed by us – but to celebrate HIM!
If it becomes more about our own selfish appetites than about a celebration of one of the two greatest events of history, we’ve not only missed the point, we’ve defiled what is holy.
We must….must, must, must make Him the central figure of all we do.
Yes! Have fun, make a nice meal, enjoy the deserts, cookies and candy, give your children gifts, watch the romantic movies, and listen to the glorious music…there is nothing wrong in that. But, in all of that celebration, make sure that Jesus is still the center of it all.
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