I love Christmas! Most Christmases I’m on top of everything: Shopping is nearly done before Thanksgiving and most presents are wrapped before the first week of December. Then we start ticking items off of our long list of “must-dos.”
This year has been a little different. I was swamped with time-critical political issues up until December 11, even though I left the state on December 3 to spend 16 days helping my parents, while my mother recovered from surgery.
Although it seemed that the month was going to be pretty hectic, I was determined that I would feel the peace of Christmas. So, while in the midst of Thanksgiving and preparing meals and rides for everyone who was staying in town, I made a mental list of things that had to happen in order for Christmas to be rejuvenating for me. I determined that panic and stress would not have a place on my list.
In order for me to be happy and feel the peace of the season, I felt that my house needed to look Christmasy; everyone needed at least one gift from their wish list; I needed to have most of the food for Christmas dinner already in the house before I left town and I needed to create a Christmas atmosphere in my parents’ home. Anything beyond that would be an extra blessing. There have been lots of extra blessings.
I took my daughter and my niece with me to California. To make things festive at my parents’ home, we went to a tree farm and cut the prettiest little tree, brought it home and decorated it; we baked and decorated sugar cookies with a neighbor; we went to Nevada City’s Victorian Christmas celebration and wandered through shops, drank hot chocolate and watched jugglers toss flaming batons in the air; we went for long walks through forested hills, saw deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds, and gathered mistletoe; we sang Christmas songs, read from the scriptures and cut paper snowflakes. The girls built fires in Papa’s real fireplace and played with the kitties. We made lots of yummy food and many loaves of scrumptious naturally-leavened sourdough bread. We topped it all off with a short visit and an ice cream cone with Uncle Stu in Old Sacramento, on our way to the airport.
Normally I would have felt panicked returning home five days before Christmas. But either it hasn’t hit me yet or I have actually achieved the peace of the season. Rather than losing Christmas by being away for the first weeks of December and returning at the last minute, I believe that I found it. I have laundry on the couch, dishes in the sink, presents to wrap, and several loaves of less than perfect bread on the counter—bread that had been intended as thank you gifts for neighbors who helped my children while I was gone.
But instead of worrying about all of that I wrote notes to the neighbors, attached them to their bottles of Martinelli’s and told them I would bring a warm loaf over when one turned out well. No big deal; they will survive and get a better loaf in the bargain. Instead of worrying about chores, I played piano with my 10-year-old and then spent most of the day helping her learn to sew pillow cases, which she has now wrapped and delivered to her friends. No stress, just time with my little girl. Later, as I worked in the kitchen, I listened to my 20-year-old play piano, play guitar and sing.
After two years of holidays without my oldest child, who returned from his LDS mission last March, and knowing that some children go away and do not return home, each holiday has taken on a new spirit for me. My heart is calm and grateful, my feelings deep and my observations keen. I capture these moments in time with a new appreciation. The things we do for holi days should be holy, in the sense that they bring us closer to each other and closer to God, rather than stress and separate us. The spirit of Christ should saturate us during the Christmas season so that we are steeped in the spirt of giving and loving, can feel inner peace and are able radiate the pure love of Christ all year long.
Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one!