The best gifts

It is December 23. It is likely that lots of us are under a lot of stress right now trying to make sure our family has the perfect Christmas. For many years, I would be have been totally stressed out today, but instead this year I gave myself a great gift-- I let myself off the hook. Right after Thanksgiving I felt totally overwhelmed at everything I had to get done. I won't go into the list of all the expectations I had for myself, but trust me, it was a lot. I just decided I didn't have to be in charge of making sure that everything is perfect for everyone. I let some things go. When I start feeling stress, I just remember think about this gift I gave myself and I feel better immediately. So give yourself a gift... if everything isn't perfect and you are still frantic--- reevaluate what you really want Christmas to be about. For me, it is really about sharing the joy that the first Christmas brought into the world.

In that light--- here are a couple traditions that we have had in our family that help us feel that joy.

First, starting on December 1st, we change our evening scripture study to a focus on Christmas. We have a notebook with a scripture, song, and story for every day until Christmas day. The stories are hokey-- but at least one of us is brought to tears almost every night. Tonight we will be reading our favorite one, sure to make us cry.

We also have a basket that has some of the symbols of Christmas and a scroll with their meaning. (Note: I realize these reasons were created to fit things that are symbolic of Christmas rather than the other way around, but that's ok.) We go through the basket and talk about the symbols.
They are:

 The candle: A mirror of starlight reflecting our thanks for the Star of Bethlehem.
The bell: Rings out to guide lost sheep back to the fold, signifying all are precious in the eyes of the Lord.
The gift bow: Tied as we should all be tied together in bonds of goodwill forever.
The color red: The first color of Christmas symbolizing the Savior's sacrifice for all.
The Candy cane: The shepherd's crook used to bring lambs back to the fold. A reminder we are our brother's keeper.
The fir tree: Evergreen-- The second color of Christmas showing everlasting life. The needles point heavenward.
The star: A heavenly sign of prophecy fulfilled long ago-- the shining hope of mankind.
The wreath: The symbol of never ending the eternal nature of love, having no beginning and no end.

Finally, my favorite tradition of all. On Christmas Eve,  family members gather at our house for dinner and fun. After dinner, we exchange "Gifts from the Heart." We draw names in November and then each of us works on a special gift from the heart. It is really touching and fun! Then we read the Christmas story from Luke. Next we sing every carol ever written. Finally, my brother reads "A Cajun Night Before Christmas" (you have to find this book!) and we eat the lovely cookies we have made. (We are about to make them right now.)
After everyone else leaves, the kids open 1 gift (new PJs) and we take pictures. Then we go to bed and wait for Santa to come.

SO... give yourself a gift and let go of things that don't matter too much, remember why we have Christmas, and try to share time with family.

Merry Christmas!


Just Jaime said...

Great advice, Mom!

Tracy said...

Love the gift to yourself.
I am not stressing this year, as I seem to not really care if things don't get done.
Very odd to me, but very freeing as well :)
Enjoy your holiday with your family and friends.

Kim said...

I would love to hear about some of your "gifts from the heart" that sounds like a fantastic idea!

Jordan McCollum said...

Love this post, Mom!

Kim—A lot of the gifts are funny. The last time I was there, I had Brooke's husband (the year they were getting married), and I made him a "guide to living with Brooke."

Another time, Mom's brother made her a crown to wear as Queen Diana (and scepter?).

Another time, one of her brothers had been called to take care of the satellites at church, so his gift from the heart was a helmet made from an upturned metal colander with all kinds of wires and springs attached. I believe the sign said he was "Lord High Commissioner"?

And then sometimes they're a lot nicer, like when my dad worked really hard on a gorgeous wooden jewelry box for my aunt. I made a cover for our beanbag chair for Ryan one year. (The nicer ones can be harder to remember than the funny ones.)

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