Holiday Countdown

With just two days  — count them —  until Christmas, it’s time for a serious holiday countdown.

A quick Google search indicates that I can download an app that will give a second-by-second/minute-by-minute/ hour-by-hour countdown complete with music. I didn’t download this as I’m not feeling as frantic as in previous years when I juggled work and Christmas preparations.

As a child, I remember how difficult it was to wait until Christmas. Two days felt like an eternity.  Although I began preparing for the holidays at the beginning of December, there is always the last-minute schedule.

Thank goodness the gifts are purchased and most of them are wrapped. The trees and the mantles in the family room and the great room are decorated. I no longer ‘deck the halls’ in every room.  I’ve done the baking except for tourtieres and sweet bread, both of which will happen on the 24th. Two entertaining events this week finished those commitments!

We decorated sugar cookies with our family yesterday afternoon.  Everyone in the household participated.  The joy both grandchildren exhibited as they handled piping tubes, coloured sugars, and other edible cookie decorations warmed my heart.  Everyone has a creative bent when it comes to Christmas cookies! As we struggled to make the cookies look nice, we joked that none of us were ready for the tv series Nailed It. The only downside to this annual event is that several sessions of vacuuming are required to catch all the coloured bits of sugar that travel far beyond the island in the kitchen.

Christmas Cookies

Enjoying Celebrations or Dreading the Holidays

As I watched our grandchildren get totally absorbed in decorating (and tasting) the Christmas cookies I realized that most adults, including myself,  don’t take enough time for joyful Christmas activities.  Having fun before the holidays is pushed aside with pressure to attend and/or host parties and obligatory family gatherings.  Although some people enjoy shopping, it often creates stress as choosing the ‘right’ gift can suck the joy from gift-giving.  There is also financial stress as over-buying can wreak a budget. For some people, there is stress from travel expectations to spend time with family.  Those who are grieving face a holiday without the comfort of a loved one.

Women usually feel the extra burden of planning and putting celebrations together as decorating and cooking often falls in their domain. This means extra work as regular household chores and maintenance tasks don’t stop.

Over the years, I experienced all types of Christmas holidays.  Fortunately, most have been celebratory and joyful.  There have been times when grief over losing a family member overwhelmed all of us.  There were years when finances were tight and ‘smaller’ celebrations were necessary. There have also been years when illness meant curtailing the usual hoopla.

Instead of dreading the holidays, my husband and I are determined to enjoy Christmas. We’ve limited entertaining as health and energy levels are different now that we are living our 7th and 8th decade.  Before the holiday we made plans with our family for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning leaving lots of time for our daughter-in-law’s family to have dinner on the big day and see their grandchildren. We’ve been intentional about pacing attendance at social events.

We’ve thought hard about which traditions to continue and what to let go. The enjoyment of taking our 6-year-old granddaughter to see a performance of Mary Poppins proved to be more fun than attending a party of 50 people, most of whom we see only once a year.

Personally, I’ve paid more attention to sleep, nutrition, and daily exercise. I’ve challenged myself not to feel overwhelmed with holiday ‘perfection’ pressure.  I’ve avoided the mall in favour of online shopping.  Preparations that I began early in the month paid off. With just two days left before Christmas, I’m not sprinting madly to finish everything on my lists.

I’m human, of course, and there were days when I needed to remind myself that sulking or pouting puts a damper on my mood and the mood of those around me. Instead, I faced difficult tasks and conquered irritability by playing my favourite music playlists to cheer myself and power through.

As the final holiday countdown approaches, there’s the list of jobs to complete — but, no feeling of dread or panic.  I know the grocery store will be busier than usual tomorrow when I do the last ‘shop’.  I have a plan for baking my sweetbread and tourtieres.  I also have a plan to visit the gym, get my hair cut, and enjoy some thinking time instead of letting this time pass in a blur of activity.

Finally, I wish all of my readers a happy holiday whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza — or, perhaps all three. I think of readers in Australia who are facing extreme heat and uncontrolled fires in their country.  I think of readers in the US who feel the effects of political struggles.  I think of readers in the UK who will face the challenge of Brexit in 2020. I think of my Canadian readers in the Western provinces where the economic downturn has changed lives.  May you find peace, hope, joy and love in your celebrations.







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