We're down to just 1 more day until Christmas Magic is supposed to be full-on GO so I have to check in with all of my friends here and see how you're doing. We all know the holidays are supposed to be filled with cheer; that you're supposed to be baking cookies, celebrating with friends and family and jolly around the clock. But... what if you're not? What if you're having a blue Christmas or if it's even more than just plain blue. The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. The holiday season can be rough for all sorts of reasons. My hope is that if you're struggling to find your sparkle this year this note will help you find a flicker of JOY and if you're jingling all the way that you can share some of that festive spirit with someone who might need some love.
Let me start by telling you a quick story. Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I can remember staying awake on Christmas Eve and asking my parents over and over and over again if we could get up yet because I was SURE that Santa had to have brought a puppy. I used to dream vivid dreams about decorations and magic, and yes, I started listening to Christmas music earlier than the radios start playing it now. As an adult, I would do anything to have that feeling of magic and wonder back. I feel blessed when I see it in my children and my niece and nephews. I have to dig deep to find it because it's not as easy to come by and I've had years where I wondered if I would ever feel it again. I've lost both of my grandpas during the holiday season (on the same day, 5 years apart), my great grandmother whom I was close to on Christmas Eve, struggled with overwhelming depression and anxiety that made me wonder if I would live or even if I wanted to until the next year. I've felt the emptiness of Christmas and it is something that I hope none of you are feeling but if you are, I'm going to share a few ideas that might bring light and love back into a holiday that can feel extra dark. I hope today's email brings you some magic or offers you a little box of Christmas miracle dust straight from Santa and Jesus that you can use or share with someone else who might need it.
My Top 5 ways to bring some Love, Light, and Magic into your Christmas.
1. Let's start with being an adult and missing the good old days. There really is something special about being a child at Christmastime. Between the flying reindeer, the lights, and visiting Santa, eyes really do twinkle and magic happens. I think its safe to say that most of us miss that sense of wonder and blind belief that we used to have. Maybe, like me, you miss family members who aren't with you anymore, a place you used to live, or simply the feeling. No, you can't go back in time but you can go forward. Part of what you loved was the security and the traditions that made the season sparkle. While you may not be able to go to Johnson's Tree Farm or decorate cookies with your great-grandma you CAN create new traditions! Our traditions are special because of the memories that are attached to them, not because of what we are actually doing. Use that cookie recipe and bake the cookies and take them to a local homeless shelter for the kids living there. Take them to the fire station or to the workers who are caring for others in the ER on Christmas Eve. Make Christmas a time to explore a new place if being home is too hard for you this year. Maybe Christmas is a time to try a new church, a new restaurant, or even a new vacation spot for a while! These can become loved traditions over time and break the cycle of sadness that comes from missing the past.
2. Nothing is harder than spending the first Christmas without someone and that feeling of loss can extend well past just one Christmas. Memories of how it used to be can be as comforting as they are painful. I remember my grandpas both in their respective recliners, one smoking cigarettes and the other a pipe or cigar like it was yesterday. Their laughs, annoyance at silly things, and their whistles still make me smile and tear up. I wonder what they would think of my kids. I wonder what my husband's brother would be like as an uncle! I miss these guys with my full heart and do you know what else? I know without a shadow of a doubt that all three of them would let me have it if I sat around missing Christmas because I miss them! It's 10000% okay to miss them, it's not okay to feel guilty, or to let their loss take your life as well. After all, it shows just as much love to smile at their memory as it does to cry at their loss. Love them, acknowledge and celebrate them, and celebrate for them.
If you are struggling to move past a loss, please take care of yourself and find someone to talk with. If you are in the Columbia City vicinity, my church has a wonderful grief support group that I can direct you to and I bet churches in your area do as well. If you're not ready to jump into church grief support, please call a counselor, a dear friend, or your doctor so you can start feeling better. You do not have to live with crushing sadness and there is hope!
3. Maybe this year feels extra lonely and that stinks. Whether it is from a divorce, a move, your family being out of town, or any other reason, spending the holidays alone can leave you feeling a host of emotions, none of which are very sparkly. While wrapping yourself in a blanket and drinking while watching tear-jerker movies might feel like your style this season, it is the exact opposite of what you need to do. It's going to take a quick minute of courage and some blind faith but this is my suggestion. Get up, get dressed, and get out! Put on your best ugly Christmas sweater or something that makes you feel extra strong, sexy, or gorgeous and hit up a museum, a ballet, or a movie. Call a friend who might also be alone and see if they'd like to meet you for a drink or for brunch. Whatever you do, don't isolate yourself and stay lonely on purpose. Sure the person or people you spend the holidays with might not be your normal but what if you make a new normal that is different but also a lot of fun? Here's the thing about traditions, we make them or fall into them so who says we can't make new ones.
I'm going to swing this into a new perspective quickly for you. Babies grow up and it jerks at our hearts in all sorts of ways. They believe in Santa and then they don't. They want baby dolls and Legos and then they want iPhones. They are home for Christmas and then they are in the military or have a job in another state or country! They get married and then you have grandkids who start the cycle over again. And through it all, you adapt your traditions. Christmas may have been on Christmas Eve when they were in middle school and Christmas morning when they were babies and now, maybe it is the 26th or the weekend before or after and THAT IS OKAY! You made a new tradition, so who is to say that if you're alone on Christmas this year you have to sit around and stay alone. You have my permission to make new awesome traditions right now - all you have to do is give yourself that same permission and get creative!
4. Christmas is so bland and meaningless. It's just expensive. Yeah, it's expensive but meaningless and bland it is not. I'm not one to shove my beliefs down anyone's throat and maybe it makes me a rotten Christian but maybe it also means that you've lost connection with what Christmas is really all about. We put an awful lot of emphasis on finding the perfect gift, having the perfect decorations, the perfect party, Santa, and cookies but all of those things are pretty quick to disappear. Just ask my friend Janice who has watched her cat destroy her Christmas tree over the past few weeks. (Honestly, it's my main reason for checking in on Facebook because I don't know if I'm cheering for the cat or the tree and it is HILARIOUS!) If you're looking for what Christmas is all about, let me direct you to your local place of worship.
If you are Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah, Happy 2nd Night of Light! Go to the temple! If you are Catholic, find a service in your area tomorrow or Wednesday and attend. If you have never ever been to church and know nothing at all about any of that, if Christmas has always been about Santa and presents, go full-on Linus this year and drop in for a Christmas Eve service. You are welcome to join me at Columbia City United Methodist Church at 11:00 p.m. for our candlelight service. If I've never met you in person, just reply to this email and I'll save you a seat. If you're terrified that you'll be struck by lightning for stepping one foot into a church after years of avoiding that scary religious stuff, I promise you'll come out very much alive. If you are Muslim, I know Christmas isn't your thing but you're surrounded by all of what the Jewish and Christian people in your area are celebrating so hit up your mosque and celebrate life there! (Sidenote: I don't care if you are Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, atheist or Jewish, you can still come to church with me on Christmas Eve and I assure you, no one else at my church will care either.)
What I'm getting at here is that the holidays are much deeper than gifts or what WE expect them to be. They are all about connection, love and giving. So now my final way to make Christmas magic. Give!
5. You might not have an extra dollar in your pocket but you can still give. Visit a nursing home and spend time with folks there who are also alone and missing what the holidays were when they were younger. Visit an animal shelter and have a very Puppy and Kitten Christmas! Visit a hospital and bring homemade cards, cookies or candy canes to the doctors, nurses or patients. Visit the fire department or jail and bring some holiday cheer to the workers, volunteers, or even the inmates! Giving is so much more than a box from Apple or Macy's.