The magazine article read: “Once upon a time there were just 12 days of Christmas and they began on Dec. 25. Planning for the holidays began a week or two before Christmas. Only children got presents.” Even I don't remember back that far!
Driving through a neighborhood in mid-October, I saw a lighted snowman on a front porch and Christmas lights being strung on houses. Parents tell me children are already beginning to compile their Christmas lists.
Before we get caught up in holiday stress, this is the time to decide what we really want out of the season. Is the goal having all your shopping done by Dec. 1? Do you want more time with your family? Give a huge party? Focus on the spiritual part of Christmas?
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, but it needs to be the way you and your family choose — not going through it out of habit or thinking you have to do what you see others doing.
If you want to decide ahead of time what you really desire or if you want to make any changes, this is the time for some thoughtful planning before you jump right into “the way we've always done it.”
The planning needs to be a family affair. Make a list of all the things you do every year, such as attending performances, baking cookies, exchanging gifts, taking a family photo, sending cards or decorating inside or outside or both.
Then together go down the list and ask of each item listed: Do we enjoy doing it? Would Christmas be Christmas without it? Is this something we want to do differently — or maybe not at all? Is there something new we'd like to try? The final decision is who will be in charge of each chosen item.
This season means many different things to different people, and it changes for each of us as our lives change. It can be a happy and enjoyable time or we can end up depressed, in debt, depleted of energy and wishing we could skip the season next year.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.