I recently heard a version of this joke: A well to do businessman was rushing home from a late Christmas Eve meeting when he realized he had not yet purchased a gift for his wife. He ran into the nearest department store, raced up to the perfume counter, and asked for a reasonably priced bottle of perfume. The sales clerk brought out a lovely $50 bottle of perfume to which the husband responded that while it was really nice, he was looking for something a bit more inexpensive. So, the clerk pulled out a $30 bottle of perfume. “This is getting closer”, the husband said, “but do you have anything that costs just a tad less?” A little frustrated, the clerk brought him a $15 bottle of perfume. The husband sighed. “Ok, I’m really looking for something cheap.” So, the clerk pulled out a mirror and held it in front of his face.
If your biggest holiday stressor is whether or not this might be your husband this year, share this story with him! Seriously though, stress can get ahold of us at this time of year and really diminish the joy we should experience at the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this post, I want to share about three stressors:
- All the decorating.
- All the gifts.
- All the parties.
First, let’s start with the decorating. While I was growing up, my parents decorated the inside of our house from top to bottom. The house looked like Santa’s workshop. Yet, a lot of the decorations were items that my parents already had. For example, they gave each of their 5 children a Christmas book annually. Each year, we placed all of the books facing outward on the bookshelves. This really brightened up our den. My parents have also kept every Christmas card ever given to them (since they got married in 1969!), and they would tape them all around the house. (Well, the kids had to help.) When my husband and I were first married, we didn’t have much money, so we bought Christmas tree ornaments and decorations from a dollar store. We still use some of these precious items, along with items we picked up from thrift stores throughout the years. The point here is that you don’t have to spend much money to decorate. In fact, you don’t have to decorate at all. If you do, you don’t have to decorate your house inside and out. You can choose one or the other. You can even just choose one room! In fact, if you spend a lot of time at a relative’s house over the holidays, you may decide to help a relative decorate their house and not decorate your own. One final tip: Last year, I decided to decorate a couple of rooms in “winter” themes so that I didn’t have to be in a rush to un-decorate. I shared this with a group of ladies recently, and one told me she did the same thing. There are many things we can do so that don’t allow decorating for Christmas to stress us out.
Second, let’s talk about the gifts. Sadly, many people get stressed out over how they are going to pay for all the Christmas gifts, when gifts should not be the focus of the holiday. I know I enjoy giving gifts (and receiving them), but how can we not stress about gift giving? Here are a few tips:
- Get your family together and draw names so that you only give one gift.
- Play “dirty Santa” with your family – again, this only requires a purchase of one gift.
- Only give your children 3 gifts – to mimic the gold, frankincense, and myrrh given to Jesus.
- Recycle gifts! If done in a thoughtful way, this is perfectly okay. Just don’t forget to take off the original “to, from” label.
- Don’t try and give everyone you’ve ever met a gift. Pray and be selective about who you purchase gifts for.
- Give up the comparison game. You don’t have to compete with your siblings, neighbors, friends, or co-workers to see who gives their children or spouse the best gift.
- Remember, it truly is the thought that counts – not the price tag.
Now, repeat after me: I will not. Spend more money. On Christmas gifts. Than I have. I will not. Go into debt. For Christmas gifts.
Because if you do go into debt – the stress will last far beyond Christmas.
Finally, let’s talk about the parties. I am not saying don’t go to Christmas parties. I love them, and plan to attend many this year. But don’t stress yourself out over parties. Remember how we talked about not spending more money than you can afford on gifts? Well, finding a sitter or a new outfit might be more than you can afford. (By the way, don’t for a minute think you have to have a new outfit for each party you attend!) For introverts, parties aren’t always fun, they’re stressful. So, give space to the introverts in your life and don’t pressure them to attend all the events. Also consider the impact being away from your kids or having them out late will have on them (or the impact this has on you!) There is lots to consider, but it boils down to don’t do more than you truly want to do and are able to do.
Above all- the focus of Christmas must be on Jesus. How can we honor and celebrate Him this season rather than focusing so much on ourselves? I asked Facebook, and here were a few responses:
- Bake a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning before opening any presents.
- Attend a Christmas Eve church service.
- Read the nativity story from the Bible first thing on Christmas day.
- Wrap a baby doll to reflect Jesus and unwrap it on Christmas – because Jesus is the best gift of all.
- Wrap all pieces of the nativity and unwrap one a day before Christmas.
- Use advent calendars or books.
- Serve others – donate money or necessities to someone in need instead of giving a gift to someone who isn’t. Ring a Salvation Army bell. Make a shoe box. Serve others in the name of Jesus!
Whatever you do, remember that Jesus truly IS the reason for the season. Don’t allow anything else – as fun as they can be – to distract you from that truth.
Your turn: What additional tips do you have for a low stress Christmas that focuses on Christ?
NOTE: This blog has previously been shared on Patheos.