Christmas can be a tough time of year. I know this from experience. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the demands on our time, bank accounts, sanity. For many years, I have struggled to hold onto any kind of genuine Christmas spirit, and then I beat myself up for not feeling the way I should feel. So helpful. I am learning that it doesn’t have to be this way. The joy of Christmas is free.

Here’s what’s working for me:

1) Let someone in line in front of you. Be it at the grocery store, or merging in traffic. Wave someone in and let them take your spot. Do it graciously. With a smile. It’s a little thing, but it’ll make you feel great, and it’s free.

2) Withhold judgment. That toddler who is face down on the ground screaming his head off? Instead of thinking “Ack! What a brat!” think instead that maybe the poor kid has just been dragged to 15 stores and is over this whole Christmas shopping deal. Or perhaps they are developing an ear infection and Mom is killing time in the toy aisle while their prescription is filled. Grace is free.

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I see Santa! And I just ate a doughnut. Photo credit: Heather D

3) Take a little kid to a Christmas parade. If you don’t have one, borrow one. There’s magic in seeing the season through the eyes of a child.

4) Do some cleaning. It doesn’t have to be a big project. Tackle a drawer, a cabinet, even a closet if you’re brave. Find five things to donate to a charity (did you know animal shelters would LOVE your old towels?). Not only does it feel great to straighten things up a bit, it’s sometimes helpful to realize how much we already have. Straightening my family room and seeing the embarrassment of riches reaffirmed our decision to limit what the kids are getting this year.

5) Simplify. The calendar, the gift list. Trim what isn’t necessary. I bow out of any evening meetings that pop up   toward the end of the month, and we only agree to the activities that will add to the feeling of joy. The gift list is at a minimum, partly because we’re on a budget, but mostly because running around like chickens with our heads cut off to complete a gift list detracts from the meaning of the season.

5) Pour a cup of hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie. And any good movie will do, as long as it says Christmas to you. I recommend The Nativity Story, which is a beautiful interpretation of the Christmas story. Amadeus is on my Christmas movie list, too, because it always played on television at Christmas time. Whether it’s a Griswald Christmas something Dickens-ish, many libraries offer movies as free loans. Check out their selection.

6) Share your memories. I love to talk about favorite Christmas memories. Bringing back the magic of my childhood warms my heart. Find someone to share your stories with, and listen to theirs. In fact, what I want most for Christmas is for my friends and loved ones to write out their favorite memories for me.

7) Listen to Christmas music. NOT these songs, unless that’s what does it for you. I say go for the good stuff. A little Tchaikovsky, some Handel, stuff without lyrics that get stuck in your head. Again, these are often a free loan from the library.

8) Put some money in the bucket. Okay, this one isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. I keep a pocket full of change to drop in the Salvation Army buckets. Our tradition is to drop change into every bucket we pass. We don’t have a ton of money to spare, but it’s a constant reminder that we are already so blessed; having a little something to give is just a bonus. And it’s a good opportunity to teach the kids about giving.

9) If you don’t feel it today, try again tomorrow. That’s the thing about depression. It is a sneaky-snake of a voice that tells us we’re never going to get it right. And it’s a lie. If today was not a great day, get up tomorrow and try it again. My commitment to myself this season is to not let yesterday’s mistakes spill over into today. It’s a new day, friends. And it can be glorious!

How do you add joy to a holiday season?


Original version published at Becoming Cliche.  Reposted, in full, with permission of the author.

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