I LOVE Christmas. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am in full Christmas mode. I love finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones, getting and putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the house, and listening to Christmas songs. I also enjoy driving around town, taking in all of the pretty light displays. I love seeing the joy and excitement in the eyes of children, anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus. And, I always enjoy picking just the right homemade cookies to leave on the plate for him, along with carrots for the reindeer, of course.
I have also loved other parts of the holiday over the years. When I was still living at home, every Christmas was a magical, special time for me. Most years, all of my siblings would be home with us to celebrate; we would decorate our tree on Christmas Eve, blasting Johnny Mathis on the stereo, eating fondue and having a ton of fun. We would be up at the crack of dawn, or before, even when we were in our teens and early adult years, peeking for our name on packages under the tree, and anxiously awaiting our parents so we could open our bulging stockings and have a family breakfast together. They are really great memories.
Somewhere along the line, however, I started to judge Christmas, and the quality of it, on whether or not my current and future observances of Christmas measured up to what I had as a child. I became really focused on tradition, and for years, followed along with my then partners’ traditions in her family, and didn’t even visit my family at Christmas time for years. I missed having all of my siblings under the same roof. My older brother died. My older sister drifted away. And, my younger siblings got married and had families of their own. The hopes for tradition, and a yearly ritual for the holiday, seemed dim.
So this year, I had a complete breakdown of sorts. I yelled at my fiance, I cried a lot, and I reluctantly admitted that I was holding onto a belief that no longer holds true. You see, every year, I anticipate ways in which my family of origin can come together, like we did years ago, and have a genuine, family Christmas. I have expectations galore, that no one ever measures up to. And, then I get disappointed and angry and start planning for how I will make it different next year. Closer to the traditions that I so desperately crave.
By focusing on the past, or the future, I am denying myself the pure joy of living in this moment, right now. Being with the people that I love, when I can, whether that is December 25th or not. Staying present. Laughing. Crying. Finding the magic that exists in my life every breath that I take.
So, the irony is, today as I am letting go of the expectations, for myself and others, to have a Christmas that feels traditional, I am experiencing the truest meaning of Christmas there is: to choose inner peace; to love others deeply and as they are; and to be present and grateful to all that I have in my life.
And, in that irony, lies a true Christmas Miracle.