My bad. I am guilty of trying too hard to make Christmas perfect. For years, I went to the limit for my children, my husband, my aging parents, my guests; plagued with the lasting impact of letting anyone down. For years, I stressed about the perfect decor, meals, gifts, and parties. I stressed about what to wear, what to serve, and how to celebrate. I mostly stressed about how to bring meaning to Christmas in an increasingly secular, over-commercialized world, where everything seems super-sized, machine-made, and impersonal.
Growing up in Germany, Christmas seemed home-spun; a celebration of music, light, and rebirth. We looked forward to singing carols, the baby in the manger at the local Christmas market, real candles on our tree, opening our advent calendars every December night, and leaving our shoes on the doorstep to be filled by Sant Nicholas with nuts, candy, and gifts.
When my children were small, the meaning of Christmas was clearly about the joy of creating magical memories. And what fun (and back-breaking) work it was! Yet as they grew into adults, I began to struggle with where to go from there. What does a meaningful Christmas look like anymore?
Enter 2020 and all bets are off. Thanksgiving was a dry run at a new paradigm, but Christmas is sacred. What’s to make of it? Then I came across an old saying that struck me in the heart. “Expectation is a premeditated resentment.” Of course, it is.
Yet thankfully, this year, given all we are facing, my expectation was low. In fact, it felt unscripted, free of judgment, and unbridled to morph in a new direction without any percipience and expectation. And as it turns out, it was the best Christmas we’ve had in decades, full of laughter, music, great food, champagne, and most importantly, family connection.