Avoiding Christmas Competitions

Christmas magic
Christmas magic

I was at a store this weekend and the woman behind the counter was making small talk and asked me if I had started my Christmas shopping.

"Nope.  Not yet." I said. "Ha! You better get going," she replied.

Up to this point the exchange was  your basic, friendly banter between strangers.  However, the tide turned when the woman waiting in line behind me jumped in to inform us how she was "just about" done.  She had everything purchased, wrapped and shipped to her family.  She had a few "little things" to pick up and then she was starting her baking.

The salesperson then started bragging about her dwindling "to do" list.  What ensued was a quick and escalating volley of what each woman had accomplished and how grateful they were to be "ahead of the game."  Suddenly I was engulfed in a low-grade panic.

I haven't even started my lists.

I was just picking up groceries for this week's meals.  I didn't realize Christmas preparations were a new competitive sport.  Why hadn't I received the memo?

Just then, I caught a glimpse of my son skipping back to the checkout lane after his jaunt to the restroom (hopefully Publix doesn't have hand-towels in the mens room!).

There was something about his skipping that shocked me back to reality.

Why was I comparing myself and my priorities to others? I know that's a losing game. No one "does Christmas" perfectly. In fact, such striving seems to contradict the meaning of Christmas.

I have my traditional family activities, but the goal is to make the relationships more important than the tasks. The season isn't about the "things," it's about God's gift to us; it's not about the stuff, it's about a baby.  I want to slow down and enjoy my babies. With time passing so quickly, it's simply not worth adding stress to the mix.

From a practical perspective, I'm trying to settle on a few basics.

Get the card out (and make it creative), but don't make everyone crazy to hit the December 1 "deadline."

Put the decorations up, but if you have to wait a night or two because the kids have rough attitudes (theoretically speaking), don't stress.

Bake, craft, sing the songs, but if at any point the effort exceeds the fun, bail quickly and guilt-free.

Years ago my friend Terry told me she avoided holiday activities that "didn't bring her joy."  This sage advice, plus a little skipping reminder from my kid, keeps me calm.

How do you manage?