How did the gift of a baby born to save us turn into, you know, this? A season where tangly family issues come to a head with tears and hurt feelings. Where we overspend and stress about giving and getting. When we turn into gluttons of unhealthy food choices that make us feel like crap. Then there’s the biggie...drinking. Way too much of it. To cope, to celebrate, to endure, to get by, to hide, and to deal. Pick your reason. Or add to the list, because I am sure there are more.
I am not writing this today to be a Christmas downer, but I’m speaking truth here and we all know the truth hurts sometimes.
What if you could radically turn this around these next few days? The shopping is done, the presents are wrapped, the food is made, and it’s time to enjoy the gift of the day upon us.
Celebrate the real meaning of the day. The Christ in Christmas. I came up with a short list of suggestions to help us do a better job at family parties these next few days.
Love the ones you’re with. Like it or not, you are stuck with them! What if before you went to a gathering you thought about that person there who bugs the crap out of you and asked for a little extra grace to deal with them. You didn’t make them the way they are, so don’t take responsibility for their words or actions. Instead, remind yourself that they have their own crap to deal with. The Christmas party is not the time to go deep and deal with past issues. You have the rest of the year to work on that. So if you haven’t yet, don’t start at the family party.
Wear your “resting pleasant face.” Did you catch my Instagram story this past week about getting groceries with my resting pleasant face instead of my resting B face? It works! Plaster a pleasant look on your face and concentrate on keeping it there. If nothing else, you will look great in all the candid photos that show up on social media!
Do it for the children. Kids can sense tension in a room. They’re on to us. If you have to fake it, do it like you're trying to win an Oscar. When your children are grown and say “What! I didn’t know you despised Uncle Stan and Aunt Gertrude!” you will feel very smug and proud of yourself for putting the kids first. Speaking of kids, you can always hang with them. They are a nice break from adulting.
Be helpful. Dive into serving and clean up whether you like the hostess or not. It creates camaraderie when we work together and a hand is always appreciated. Help pass out dessert. Refill the ice. Grab a trash bag for the wrapping. Hold the baby. Wipe the toddler's face. Give someone else the comfy chair. There are acts of service to be done everywhere.
Make memories. Ask yourself this question, “How am I making a memory today?” We all have those memories from our childhood at the family Christmas parties. What do you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to remember about you? Make it happen.
For example, here is a scene from our family party at my Dad's last Friday night between Abby (my thirty some year old daughter) and Gage, my nephews 6 year old son.
Gage “I can make a dinosaur noise”
Abby “I want to hear it”
Gage” It will be loud”
Abby “its ok go for it”
Gage “roars”( it was really impressive!)
Abby “have you ever seen my raptor impression?”
Gage “ no” looking skeptical
Abby does it (I don’t know how to describe it but it's spot on)
What happened here is a memory. It was a moment that came and passed but I bet Gage remembers it for a long time. The year Aunt Abby was a dinosaur. You don’t have to be a dinosaur to make a memory, but it wouldn’t hurt to try, would it?
I remember watching “A Walton's Christmas” with my cousins. Christmas dinners at long tables in my grandma's basement. Getting a box of Cracker Jacks and an orange after the Christmas program at church (might be a CRC thing). Singing glory in Excelsior Day O at the top of my lungs and having no idea what it meant, but loving the way it sounded. Outfitted in matching Christmas outfits with my brother and sister. Yes both of them, my mom was a talented seamstress. Then the biggie, catching my Grandpa Hop putting on a Santa suit in the basement.
It comes down to this: My Christmas memories as a child are all good ones. I love that my parents and grandparents gave me the gift of all of these memories. As an adult now, I know that this is not always easy.
The next two days should be and can be a joyful celebration. Make it happen. Be the gift.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.