I find Christmas stressful. There, I’ve said it.
Bah humbug! and all that. Yes, Christmas is magical, it comes once a year, and I should get over myself. I totally agree with you – Christmas is indeed magical, and I should most definitely get over myself, but the fact is that it’s not just one day, is it? Not really.
I don’t remember my parents making such a huge deal about Christmas when I was growing up. Of course we absolutely loved getting the tree and decorations from the basements and "dressing our tree up" together on a cold, December Sunday afternoon. Of course Christmas was all about gifts. My brother and I knew we were in for a good chance of getting that one present we’d been asking for for months and months but knew we had to wait for.
Christmas day was all about getting together with my maternal grandparents and a few other relatives for a nice meal together. I fondly remember those lazy Christmas day afternoons spent together playing cards, watching cartoons, and generally moaning about having eaten too much – and yet eating some more!
Christmas was simple.
It doesn’t feel simple anymore
You just have to take a quick look on social media or the marketing messages bombarding us from everywhere, to know that Christmas today is all about luxury and excess. Let’s put the religious aspect to the side for a second. The vast majority of people all over the world celebrate Christmas regardless of their religion. Whether they accept its religious message or not, most people still embrace it as a season for giving and spending time with the people you love.
Except that if you ask me, Christmas these days feels like a lot of pressure. Just look at the shops. You walk into your usual grocery store at the end of October for some bread and milk, and you’re surrounded by Christmas cards, decorations, wrapping paper, and all sorts of stocking fillers. There starts the pressure to buy.
The pressure of giving presents
When we were growing up, our parents were telling us Christmas was about giving to the needy or less fortunate. Spending time volunteering for good causes. They certainly wouldn’t buy us tons of presents.
Now that I’m a parent myself though, I feel the pressure to shower our children with as many gifts as we can possibly think of, because that seems to be how it’s done these days. Christmas feels big and bold – the biggest and the boldest, the better, it seems.
Two of my three children have their birthdays in November and December, and they’re lucky enough to receive everything they can ever need or want every year for their birthdays. By the time Christmas comes round, they have plenty of new things. They have more than they ever needed or wanted. The presents they receive are often not something they longed and waited for. Some of them end up forgotten a short few weeks later. Overwhelmed by quantity, they revert back to their favorite toys or occupations, and more stuff in the house leads to more clutter, more choices to be made, and therefore more overwhelm.
The financial pressure
It’s not just the children we need to buy for. This message of abundance and exuberance tells us we’re not just buying for close friends and family anymore. You buy for your children’s teachers, your neighbors, your work colleagues, and your distant cousins’ children, just to name a few. Where does it stop? Where do you draw the line? How much do you spend?
Christmas seems to put a huge financial pressure on families. Not just to buy the perfect presents for everyone on the list, but also to buy the best food and serve the best spread, on the most beautiful Pinterest-friendly, superbly-laid-out table. You have to have the best (real) tree, the best decorations, and quite simply the best of everything. If you can outdo yourself from your previous Christmas, even better. Is this really what Christmas needs to be all about?
The mounting pressure on the to-do list and social calendar
Do you want to catch up with an old friend who’s in town in November or December? Forget it. The social and family calendar is already packed. It’s not just about what happens on December 25th (or 24th, depending on when you celebrate). It’s about all the pre-Christmas get-togethers that friends and family want to organize, especially if you come from afar. You’re under pressure to see everyone, of course. Or the guilt that weighs on your heart will be as heavy as the turkey that weighs on your stomach.
Then there’s your work do, your other half’s work do, the children’s football friends’ do, the school do, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the nativity plays, and the costumes and props that you need to source or make. Christmas brings a mountain of items onto your to-do list. So much so, that you may as well have a dedicated one!
I’m sorry I feel this way
I truly am. I’m a little ashamed I feel this way. But I can’t help it. I promise you that I do love Christmas and I’m extremely grateful for the chance to spend it with my family. I do wish it was a lot simpler. I wish I didn’t have to feel bad for wanting it to be smaller and simpler either.
I’ve come to accept that I’m someone who gets easily overwhelmed, and I now forgive myself for it. In the last year or so I’ve had to be very conscious and intentional about how much I do and the pace I do it at. If I don’t pay very close attention to the choices I make, stress and overwhelm do take over, and I become the frazzled, unfocused mum I’m trying so hard not to be.
An item on a to-do list, for me, is an item on a to-do list. Until it no longer is. And whether this reads “buy cards for neighbors” or “finish the work presentation for next week,” it weighs on my mind almost in the same way. It puts pressure on my already-stretched mental load and it gives me (and lots of other parents like me) lots to do.
Christmas is magical, and I love the day. Of course I love the look of excitement on my children’s face, and I love being able to spend it with close family. I love Christmas as much as you do. But please don’t judge me when I say I find it all a bit too much. I feel the pressure of it. I’m trying to handle it the best way I can.
After all, I’m just a normal mum trying not to lose the plot here. So forgive me as I’ll deal with Christmas a bit closer to the time. I will try my hardest to make it about simplicity and happiness, rather than exuberance and excess.
What do you think? Do you feel Christmas has changed since when you were a child? Let us know in the comments below.