Letting go of holiday expectations might be the wisest choice for one’s well-being.
I always imagine these perfect Hallmark-like scenarios in my head. My heart bursts with anticipation beforehand, only to plummet into disappointment, even anger over how nothing ever turns out the way it is supposed to.
One Christmas, I chose a cute rocking horse for my daughter, Kaitlyn. This cute, soft horse looked almost like a sturdy stuffed animal. Excitement in me grew as I anticipated her joy. We made a big mistake though. We failed to assemble it ahead of time. Had we done so, we would have realized that parts were missing. Just like that, I was upset. The special gift had flopped. Other gifts occupied my daughter’s attention. I, however, acted like a baby.
The next day, I wanted to exchange it for one with all the parts. Of course, they were out of stock, and we couldn’t get another anywhere. In hind sight, I don’t know why we just didn’t go buy the missing parts at the hardware store. I loved that gift. My desire involved that particular gift whole and working. Instead, I settled for a plastic rocking horse that made galloping sounds. We still have that toy. She and her sister enjoyed it. The first choice, however, lives on in my mind though as the perfect gift gone wrong. Maybe someday, I can find another similar to it or just like it for a grandchild. Maybe I can live the special moment the way it was supposed to go. But there I go again, setting myself up for possible disappointment.
It would be nice if that was just a fluke, but it isn’t. Maybe that is how it was for the toy, but the experience of disappointment occurred in other ways over the years with different kinds of expectations. Expectations may involve gifts or people or food or feelings or moods. Let’s face it—nobody really acts like a Hallmark movie gathering.
Opportunities for offense of some kind abound at gatherings. Tension often remains until forgiveness is given or people lighten up or comparisons are dropped. If we can laugh at the cake that turned out a bit lopsided instead of being mortified over it, the day may be more enjoyable. Perhaps we can accept each other, faults and all.
Christmas is about more than perfect gifts, special outfits, elaborate tables of food, and fancy decorations. The holidays aren’t a competition, nor are they meant to be “perfect”. Perfection is a mirage.
Perhaps we could avoid the stress that emerges this time of year by lowering our expectations and relaxing. Simplify the menu. Pare the spending. Maybe give to those in need rather than adding to a stockpile of someone who has so much already. Block out the gimmicks and noise. Make Christmas the light in the darkness again. Let Christmas be about love and honor. May it be about people and relationships, not about stuff.
And if the special gift you wanted to give someone special fails somehow, remember that material things wear out, break, lose their luster; but the memory of cuddling on the couch for the Christmas story, singing to a favorite song, and laughing until your sides ache make memories no one can steal or destroy.
Christmas isn’t about the food. It’s about one gift: Jesus. That is the perfect gift. No one can trump it, but you could try to replicate the love.