A version of this letter was originally written in December 2018 for MOPS of Palmetto Bay.
My Dear Fellow Mommies,
I wish that I could press pause and sip a cup of coffee with you in the midst of this glorious and often chaotic season of Christmastime. But I am thankful for the opportunity I have to share my heart and encourage you with what I’ve learned–and am still learning–about how to love my actual Christmas. I hope that it will leave you feeling empowered and excited to enjoy Christmas. And set you free from unrealistic expectations, resented obligations, and that nagging guilty disappointment.
I remember that 1st Christmas as Mom.
It was the first time I was aware of how much goes into birthing Christmas for our families. We’re usually the ones shopping, planning meals, sending cards, scheduling parties, decorating our homes, communicating with extended family, and wrapping gifts. All on a timeline that leaves the best of us dizzy. But isn’t it supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year? Could I, as a mom, still experience the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas?
A couple years ago I saw a video about Alexandra Kuykendall’s book, Loving My Actual Christmas. And it completely revolutionized my approach to the holidays. I enjoyed Christmas for the first time in years, rather than just seeing it as a season I had to survive. With a little planning, I’m really looking forward to Christmas again and giving my kids the gift of a present and happy mom.
Here are 4 things I’m doing this year to give myself the freedom to love my actual Christmas:
Taking stock of our current realities.
My kids are 10 and 6 and are still fairly flexible when it comes to family Christmas traditions. So rather than doing a bunch of things that I feel like we’re expected to do, each of us can choose a holiday activity that we can do as a family. My son wants to spend time with friends, my husband wants to watch a few classic Christmas movies, and I want to see some Christmas light displays. My daughter is an angel in a local performance of The Nutcracker, so that’s her big thing this year.
Once those big rocks–as Alexandra calls them–are set in the schedule, we can choose to fill the gaps in with smaller rocks… things that are fun but won’t ruin Christmas if they don’t happen.
Evaluating family traditions.
My husband and I had different Christmas traditions in the homes we grew up in. I love family traditions and passing those down, but it’s impossible to incorporate every tradition from our families of origin. So the question becomes, which traditions from our own childhoods do we want to pass on to our children? As we narrow that list down, we are free to decide how WE will shape Christmas in the Lantz home. I think that’s really fun! Then, if our kids can experience traditions with extended family, they can enjoy making those memories with other family members. Win-win.
Coming up with a game plan.
There’s something about the pressure of the holidays that can trigger hurt and dysfunction. Even in the most innocuous situations. Steve and I have to be on the same team. We have to come up with a game plan for how we will navigate challenging situations or conflicts that may arise. It isn’t fun, but it really helps to be reminded that we’re on the same page. We will have each other’s backs if one or both of us needs to call an audible. Our primary allegiance is to each other and our kids, and we will maintain our family boundaries with grace, kindness, and love.
Taking advantage of Christmastide!
Christmastide, or the 12 Days of Christmas, begins on Christmas Day and continues into the new year. Kids are still out of school for most of this time, so why try to fit all of our Christmas plans in by December 25th?! This was the biggest takeaway from the book that I’ve been able to put into practice. It’s completely revolutionized the way I feel about Christmas. These are great days to do things like bake cookies, watch movies, and schedule visits with extended family without pressure! This has redeemed me from merely surviving the holiday season, to enjoying, cherishing, and actually loving our family Christmas.
Because it’s not the doing of Christmas that’s important, anyway. This Christmas will come and go, and the details and memories of what we did will fade. But it’s the awe of the miracle of Christmas that will remain, and the wonderful gift we’ve been given from God… the gift of his Son, Jesus. His birth gives us the gift of a living hope, a peace that passes understanding, good news of the greatest joy, and truly unfailing love.
Let’s love our actual Christmases and sow those seeds of love deep into the hearts of our children.
With joyful expectation,
Updated November 2023