I hear it every fall. “Can you believe that Christmas things are already in stores!!”
“I don’t like to turn on Christmas music until December 1st!”
“I just look the other way.”
“This is just wrong.”
Let me tell you something. I’m a mother. I understand the whole, “Let’s not celebrate Christmas for 2 weeks in a row because for goodness sake my children need to sleep and eat normal food at some point.” I get that. But Christmas for me means I’m shopping for presents. I am thinking about our budget. I’m thinking about the interests of each child. I’m trying to think of something really cool for each child, but won’t actually drive me crazy to have in my home. We really like to do homemade gifts, and that means sewing, or knitting, gluing or painting, or something of that sort in my world.
I work hard to make Christmas special, and not materialistic. You know the old rule: something you need, something to read something to wear and…I don’t remember the last one. Something fun, I think.
I’m writing the Christmas letter, arranging for the Christmas photo, picking out coordinating, or at least not-clashing outfits for the Christmas photo, coming up with a Christmas list that fits in our budget for stamps, updating it on my yearly spreadsheet and trying to remember who moved and who got married, and did they decide to hyphenate their last name after all? I’m writing out addresses, stuffing envelopes, or trying to entice the kids to do so like an elvish version of Huckleberry Finn and whitewashing a fence.
I’m wrapping. I wrap, and I wrap and I wrap. I try to spend 2 hours wrapping a week for a few weeks, so I don’t have to pull an all nighter Christmas Eve. I save old gift bags. I have them organized in tubs, that no one else in my house ever seems to know about. I have a list, that I’ve upgraded to an app, that is password protected to keep track of which one of my kids drew the name of which cousin, and did I get something for the piano teacher this year? I wrap some more. I have 6 kids. They each get from us 1 meaningful gift, 1 pair of wool socks, 1 book with a yearly letter from my husband written to them in the front cover, 1 ornament, and 1 new pair of pajamas every year. Most of that goes in their stockings, but apparently on my husband’s side of the family you wrap the presents that go in the stocking. What’s with that? Stockings by nature are a decorative covering over the gifts, correct? What’s with that? That’s our yearly Christmas fight. Well, we don’t fight anymore. I wrap them because it makes my husband happy, and I like seeing him happy on Christmas. It’s one of those little things that means a lot to him.
Then there’s my parents, and my husband’s parents. Siblings draw names, or was that just my side, and we buy gifts for everyone on his side? I always forget that.
I ask them what we are doing this year…usually in February. April if I’m running behind. Around December 20th or so everyone answers me.
Because last minute shopping with 6 kids in tow in crazy-full stores is just soooooo fun. You have to dart in-between all the men standing there like they have no idea how traffic flow in a store is supposed to work. They complain about women drivers. We need to have a conversation about store traffic, and how you don’t walk slowly in the middle of an aisle. There are lanes. Invisible lanes. Move aside.
I used to work in a retail store. Christmas was crazy. Do you know when we start setting up Christmas things in the back room? The end of summer. Do you know when the buyer ordered all that stuff? Way earlier, I assure you. That explosion in the stores doesn’t just happen. It represents months of work from a literal army of people.
Then there’s the baking. There’s the “bring a dozen treats” to every single event, Christmas parties, recitals, church celebrations and everything. So basically, bring a dozen treats to something every other day in the month of December. Also, I have a kid with food allergies, so I have to plan his treats out separately.
Then of course, one of my kids has a birthday in November, and two of them have a birthday in December. So I’m kinda celebrating half my kids’ birthdays during the “Christmas” season. Friends, gifts, cakes, and balloons…check…check…check…check.
Moms like me with lots of kids, a budget, and a desire to not fill my house with plastic the month of December need months to plan Christmas. Some people have family overseas and need to do their shopping way ahead of time to get the gifts to them. If we will wait until December to start the preparations we will literally explode. Literally. Some of you have seen it in the form of some kind of volcanic reactions that mothers tend to have during this season.
“CLEAN UP THIS HOUSE!!! ALL I’M ASKING IS FOR YOU TO PICK UP YOUR PAIR OF SOCKS! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK? NO! NO THAT’S NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK!!” Hear that? That woman yelling hasn’t slept in 3 weeks.
Do you know what kind of people think that Christmas should just wait and appear like magic in the month of December?
Children. Children think that.
Same kind of people who think that stinky socks magically get picked up, washed, and put back in their drawer.
For the rest of us grown ups, Christmas showing up early with craft supplies out in Hobby Lobby no later than July is like one part of the world acknowledging that I will be a much nicer person if I don’t cram the work of Christmas into a few tiny weeks. It means I might have a chance during the month of December to open up my Bible and still my soul in the midst of the demands of my family. The chance to get Christmas chores done ahead of time so I can actually enjoy the season? That’s a gift.
To all the grown ups out there who don’t have everything magically appear for Christmas, but sacrificially give so that others may have one…enjoy your slow stroll down the Target aisles without shame. You have chosen to carefully pace yourself and not make December the month of panic and stress. Put on some Bing Crosby. Who cares if it’s not even Thanksgiving. I don’t care, neither should you. Sometimes slowing down means starting early. You have seen the blessing of Christmas actually carried into all the year, and have come out finding a way to enjoy it. Not only that, but you have taken the time to reflect on the “why” of all of this celebration and the “why” is what brings the true joy.
Christmas makes me happy, and Christmas music makes me happy. Stress doesn’t make me happy. If I can reduce my stress by starting the Christmas chores early, I’m all for that. I’ve got Amy Grant in my earbuds, and I’ve got my lists out. Let’s do this thing.