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The air is rich with the smell of ginger and spices as I sit here furiously typing – Christmas is only four sleeps away. I have finally finished baking the gingerbread buttons. Fruit cakes are patiently soaking up more brandy. The fruit mince tarts are ready to be distributed.
Lest I paint you a picture of domestic bliss …. I must set the record straight 🙂
To be honest, I am always weary by the time December rolls around. Every year. My energy levels are at an all time low. And it seems like such a hard ask to sprint to the finish line now and end the year well.
But first, there is the ‘hurdle’ of Christmas to leap across …
I wish I can say that I am some well oiled machine and that I have Christmas preparations down to a tee. The truth is, I am a PROCRASTINATOR. I know I have to start planning early but I always leave it to the last minute. Every single year. And then scramble madly looking up recipes to shop for ingredients, precision planning as to when to bake what (scheduling before and after work times and weekends), agonising over the Christmas lunch menu … and so on.
This year is no different. Except that we are living in the midst of a pandemic and it’s just been a year of ‘unprecendented-ness’, ‘pivoting’, Zoom meetings / webinars, hand sanitising, mask wearing, moving from lockdown to hope to more lockdowns, curfew and uncertainty then hope again etc. It’s been such a roller coaster. And this is coming after the worst bush fires in Australia.
Quite frankly, I cannot wait to see the end of 2020.
After such a tumultuous year, I am so tempted to just bunker down and ignore Christmas altogether. Maybe I can sleep through it all and wake up to 2021.
But the truth is I love Christmas
I love the true meaning of Christmas, where we celebrate the joy of a Saviour’s birth and the hope that it generates. I grew up in the Catholic tradition and remember singing all the Christmas carols and hymns in a choir. It brings back a lot of happy memories of an innocent and simpler time in my youth.
Of all the years where hope and joy is needed, it is 2020.
Therefore I am choosing this year to celebrate Christmas, not just to get through it. I want to celebrate life and a milion things that I am grateful for.
I am grateful that I still have a job even though it has been one of the most stressful times in my working life. That is saying a lot as I’ve experienced my workplace being razed by a fire twenty years ago and more recently, experienced burnout.
I am grateful for family. And friends. And co workers who have worked hard this year, shoulder to shoulder, in the uncertain times of dealing with a deadly invisible enemy.
Because of the travel restrictions, my extended family cannot join us for Christmas from the UK but I am grateful that we are all healthy. And that we can still connect via Zoom. I am grateful for modern technology.
My little niece has been colouring in / making decorations for my Christmas tree for the last two years. It was awesome to compare notes on our progress this year with decorating our respective trees via Zoom. She was chuffed to see her decorations hanging on my tree. And I was thrilled for her to have her own tree for the first time ever.
Christmas Day will be less exciting this year without my little niece. without that childish joyful anticipation of good things. But I will still put on a Christmas lunch as is the tradition and cook my heart out.
I am not aiming to be perfect
I blame the commercials – you know, the ones about happy families with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, unwrapping a mountain of the most gorgeously wrapped presents; smiling & laughing families around a table groaning with the most scrumptious looking food – a glistening turkey, shiny glazed ham, desserts to die for …
It places such unrealistic expectations on us to be perfect – the perfect cook, host, giver of gifts, interior designer. While I love the cooking and baking part, I don’t like the buying or wrapping of presents or decorating my house. And wanting to be perfect in all areas just set me up to fail.
It’s taken me many years to realise this – I don’t have to conform to others’ expectations of how Christmas is to be celebrated. I can be kind to myself at Christmas. But I also appreciate a balance between what makes me happy and what makes those closest to me happy.
What is your love language?
I had an epiphany this year.
I read The 5 Love Languages (affiliate link) by Gary Chapman earlier in the year. According to Chapman, there are five ways in which we express and receive love – Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. And each of us has a strong preference for one of these ways.
My epiphany is that my love language differs from that of my closest friends. I value acts of service more than any of the others ie I prefer to do something for someone I love rather than buying them a gift. In return, I also appreciate someone helping me out with an act of service rather than buying me a gift.
But my friends value gift giving much more. One of them spends ages debating what to get for whom, researching the best gift, do they already have this or maybe they prefer that.
Every year there is a conflict within me – I feel I have to reciprocate with the gift giving as I know I will receive gifts from them. But I procrastinate about the gift buying from my end and then it’s too late and I have to brave the crowds at the shopping centre just to get something.
Last year, I decided to give the gift of time ie I gave them vouchers for us to spend time together – one, a cooking course of her choice that we can do together and another, a local getaway we can do together. Well, what bad timing it was as ‘rona struck! Face to face cooking lessons were cancelled and we were in lockdowns which meant going away for a weekend was not an option. So I still owe them last year’s presents.
I am not brave enough to ask that we not exchange gifts. I tried saying that last year, only to be shushed and shut down. Since my epiphany, I have now accepted that I can’t expect them to express love in a different way or expect them to express love the same way as I do.
So I will respect that and give them a physical gift. And not be conflicted about it.
Plus at some stage of 2021, execute last year’s gifts.
My other favourite tradition at Christmas
Another tradition that I will not forgo is donating to various charities. As I am still earning an income, I can afford to donate money. I look forward to retiring one day, when I can donate my time, which is very difficult to do right now.
Foodbank and Kiva are my favourites but I will look for others at Christmas. Setting up a “Giving” sinking fund is how I manage my charitable giving. An automatic payment is deposited monthly (from my everyday account) and as it builds up, I donate it. Easy! This is one account that I don’t mind depleting.
Even though Christmas 2020 will look different to others in the recent past, I choose to celebrate it with my family and friends, upholding our usual traditions, instead of just getting through it. And I will respect my friends’ love languages as they differ from mine 🙂
I am looking forward to having a few days off to reflect on the year that was and look forward to 2021.
I wish all of you much joy and happiness this holiday season and that you will be able to spend it with your loved ones, be they far or near. Please know that I am grateful for your choosing to spend some of your precious time online with me in 2020.