It seems to me, in recent years, Christmas has become quite the conundrum. Maybe it always has been as complicated as it now feels, or maybe I’m just more tuned in since becoming a parent, but it seems like everything you do—or don’t do—this time of year is intended to make a statement:
Is Santa coming to your house?
What about Elf on the Shelf?
How many presents are you giving and getting?
Are you caroling, serving, reading, s’moring, Operation Christmas boxing, white elephanting?
And no matter where you land, your choice, for better or for worse, seems to be saying something about you, your family—and in the more intense situations—your faith.
I’ll admit, the whole thing leaves me feeling a little paralyzed, a little gun shy to start doing anything for fear of the camp I’ll land in, which places me in a camp in and of itself: the intentionally quiet, slower paced crowd that isn’t going to let craziness rule the Christmas season.
I’m exhausted. Not from doing anything, but from mentally trying to figure what to do.
The thing is, I am not sure I have strong feelings one way or the other on what the Anderson family Christmas should look like. This had made our days this December look pretty similar to the other days of the year—though I’m not sure that was our goal—up until a few days ago.
And then I heard something that maybe didn’t solve the issue, but at least put things in a different light. Psychologists say that when it comes to kids, the idea of traditions, of consistency, of regularity, of ritual, matters. In a child’s mind—and in a child’s imagination—traditions create “always” statements:
“In our family, we always cut down our own tree.”
“We always bake Christmas cookies together.”
“We always visit a living nativity.”
“We always write letters to Santa.”
“We always watch our favorite Christmas movies.”
It creates a sense of security, solidarity, safety in a child’s world, which—let’s face it—is something every child could benefit from.
This time of year is a prime time to start creating and reinforcing a foundation that holds firm through season and life changes. It doesn’t have to be a statement. It doesn’t have to be defended in 500 words or less or match what others in your church, small group or extended family do. It just needs to be yours. And it simply needs to happen—whatever “it” may be.
In other words, instead of allowing this season to happen to us, let’s begin moving more intentionally in a direction—not for our sakes, but for our kids. View this time of year through the lens of your children, and you may find yourself landing in a different camp altogether.
In our family, we decided to have a conversation. It was just as much about what we would do, as it was about what we wouldn’t. Not as it relates to the various “positions” we take on certain things, but on how involved and fired up we are going to be about all the positions to begin with.
Meaning, we decided our tradition, generally speaking, was going to be to have fun. To relax. To stop over thinking. To stop stressing and to start looking for at least one thing—but no more than a few—to pour energy into. And then to enjoy it. Because if we are in the stage of life where we have the power to create “always” statements for my kids, then I want to be sure I am creating always statements I want to stick.
“We always laughed.”
“We always had fun.”
“We always focused on the true meaning of Christmas but never lost the wonder, the magic, the fun in it.”
Let’s simplify. Let’s ask a new question. Instead of picking a camp or picking a fight, what if we decided instead to pick an “always”?
What will your Christmas look like this year, and as a result what will your kids’ memories look like when they think back to this extra special time of year?
Sarah Anderson writes for the XP3 student curriculum at Orange. She is married to Rodney Anderson and is mom to two beautiful bouncy boys, Asher and Pace.