It is officially the most magical time of the year if you’re financially secure and don’t have kids.
If, like me, you are not financially secure, have a few kids and more cousins than you can count, then the most wonderful time of the year quickly becomes the most stressful time of year. Throw in a global pandemic, multiple lockdowns, constantly changing tier systems and 3-degree assignment deadlines and you’ll be well on your way to a festive meltdown.
Now, usually, Christmas promptly arrives in our house on December 1st. The tree goes up, along with garlands, wreaths, ornaments, and heirloom style trinkets that are scattered throughout the house. Generally, we have no fewer than three trees, one in the living room, a second in the girl’s room and a third tree is erected outside to show to the world that we love Christmas.
Each one is decorated with love, care, matching colours themes and is organised to be flawlessly symmetrical. The magic of Christmas really comes alive. Meanwhile, I slowly die inside from stress, anxiety, and glitter inhalation.
Not this year!
2020 has been troublesome, to say the least. We’ve had heartbreak, loss, uncertainty and a whole load of other negative happenings and emotions. So, this year, we are doing December a bit differently.
Towards the end of November, I started to make lists for all the things that we would need to do in the Christmas run-up. What there was to buy, the lights that would require checking, the baubles and trinkets that would need pulling out of storage and dusting. While making these lists and becoming more anxious with each new to do, I had a moment.
A fleeting thought that changed my entire outlook.
Four magical words.
A question really.
‘What’s the fucking point?’
Now, this sounds negative but stay with me.
What is the point? Why does every Christmas have to be like a military operation? Who is it for? The kids don’t care if the tree is symmetrical. My husband hates all the fancy fuss that comes with my stress quest to have the perfect Christmas. Together they don’t care if the family heirloom decorations are out on show or if the colour scheme of the tree matches the living room décor.
So why does this matter?
Answer. It doesn’t!
And at that moment, as if by some Hallmark Christmas movie-style miracle, I discovered the true meaning of Christmas. That is to spend time with your family; smile, cuddle, spread love, laughter & joy and most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it.
Now obviously, every Christmas we’ve had as a family has been filled with laughter and joy. Please don’t think that I’m discovering the meaning of Christmas for the first time. We are lucky to be part of a large loving family but if I’m honest, at this time of year, I usually feel more stress than joy.
I constantly worry about how perfect everything should be so that everyone has a good time and, in the process, I end up…not having a good time.
After talking all of this out with my husband I decided that this year we were throwing out the ‘rule book’. If 2020 has taught me anything, it is that you should live your life to be happy.
So, I have made some major changes and have had so much fun in the process.
We decided not to bother with an outside tree this year. Why pay to fit and light something that only your neighbours really enjoy. Unless you are going to sit at your front door and look at your outdoor tree every evening, what is the point? Really?
Our living room tree from last year was in much need of replacing. It was a 6ft one that I had purchased in a B&M sale for £12.99 three years prior. It served us well, but our new Christmas spirit warranted a sparkly new Christmas tree. Luckily, we grabbed a bargain at a local Tesco. I managed to get a 7ft artificial tree for £40. While it was a splurge compared it’s £12.99 predecessor, it was well worth it. The quality of the tree is even better than I was expecting, and I know that this will last us for years to come.
With no rule book for decorating, we decided to put onto the tree only things that will make us smile. After the year we have had, it is the least we deserve. I spent as much as I could spare on ‘tack’, and I mean ‘tack’ in the most beautiful sense. I bought only things that I knew would bring a smile and a giggle to the faces of my children.
These included glitter pizza baubles, an alpaca carrying presents, multi-coloured tinsel, Santa, brightly coloured headphones, glittery cupcakes and the initial of each member of our family, to name but a few.
When it came to decorating the tree, the usual stress fest and echos of “don’t put that bauble there, just wait for me to get it straight, just let me do it!” was replaced with nothing but smiles and giggling. It was, without a doubt, the most relaxed and fun ‘tree putting up’ session we’ve ever had. Ever.
For many people, the strive for perfection at Christmastime brings with it an immense pressure. I hope that this year, people can relax and find some comfort in the changes that we are facing in what has been a truly horrific year. Not all change has to be negative. We can absolutely find joy and pleasure in little moments, adapt and make new traditions.
Now that the kids are finishing school, we are well into the countdown to Christmas. Keep your eye out for fun Christmas recipes and activity ideas coming over the next week.
Until then….Hannah XO