What Christmas Is All About
by Anita DiGregory
Does the time between Thanksgiving and January 2 seem like a blur? Are your holidays unforgettably beautiful but undeniably stressful? If so, you aren’t alone. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent said they experienced greater levels of stress during the holidays. And, who wouldn’t? After all, retailers have been stressing us out since way back in July, with visions of Christmas trees, ornaments, and wrapping paper decking the (retail) halls. Soon after, Facebook chimed in with its countdowns to Christmas. Then, the countless pre-Thanksgiving holiday sales booklets distributed by every major retailer from A to W—that is Amazon to Walmart—were delivered (almost making one nostalgic for the good ole’ days of Black Friday).
Charlie Brown: I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
It may be the hap…happiest season of all, but the holidays can also result in excessive stress for parents and children. Holiday programs, parties, and events overfill an already full calendar. Parents feel the added pressure that goes along with finding the perfect gifts, traveling, visiting extended family, finding a lack of time and money, and providing the perfect holiday for everyone. This can all lead to conflict and distract from the true meaning of the season.
Ellen Griswold: I don’t know what to say, but it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)
And let’s not forget, ‘tis also the season for those flawless, photoshopped images to flood our social media and those picture-perfect Christmas cards to be delivered to our doors. This creates added pressure. According to a research study conducted on holiday stress, 41 percent of Americans surveyed, and 49 percent of the moms surveyed, acknowledged they stressed over creating the perfect holiday. So, how do we strive to reach above the Griswold’s Christmas Vacation without overstressing about providing the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas? Here is some advice from the experts.
Take time for planning. Talk to your family about what is important to them to accomplish and what their favorite things are to do. Reflect and prioritize. Whether it is drinking hot chocolate while watching a favorite holiday movie, cutting down the perfect tree, making Christmas cookies, or caroling with friends at the local nursing home, whatever it is, make a plan. Schedule the time to do those things together.
Enlist help from the kids. The holidays are family time. Getting the children to help with chores, decorating, and planning gives them a sense of pride, helps unify the family, and gives everyone more time to enjoy fun activities.
Be intentional. The holidays can be a time of overspending and overeating. Overindulging is proven to cause physical and emotional stress on individuals.
In fact, a survey conducted by the Principal Financial Group found that 53 percent of those polled acknowledged that holiday spending stresses their finances. Approximately, 11 percent added that it results in a “great deal of stress” on them financially. Talking with your spouse about spending limits and establishing a budget can be helpful.
Slow down. With all the added demands of the holiday season, it can be difficult to take the time to reflect, relax, and enjoy. Research has shown that spending quality time with family is key to reducing stress.
Narrator: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Nurture an attitude of gratitude. Modeling gratitude for our children is vital. Research continues to show the positive health effects of counting and reflecting on our blessings.
Remember others. The holiday season is the perfect time to teach our children the importance of thinking of and helping others. Doing so helps them to learn compassion and empathy. Visit an elderly neighbor; go caroling at a local nursing home; send a Christmas card to someone who may not get another card. They can even donate toys to Toys for Tots or to another community aid organization. The possibilities are endless, but the results are priceless.
Above all, strive to remember and celebrate the Reason for the season. May you and your family have a safe and blessed holiday season and New Year.
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)