“At first, some people have a hard time explaining exactly what’s wrong with Christmas because on the surface everything looks fine. But when they take a closer look, many of them realize that their celebrations lack depth and meaning. It’s not enough that Christmas be a family birthday party or the biggest social even of the year. They want to be moved by the celebration.
When they decorate, they want the result to be more than a beautiful house. They want to look around them and be filled with an air of expectancy . . .
. . . At Christmas, people want to reach down inside themselves and come up with feelings that are better, bigger, more joyful, more loving and more lasting than their everyday ones . . .
. . . But for most people, the real problem with Christmas isn’t that they’re spiritually bankrupt or that Christmas is devoid of meaning. It’s simply that they haven’t taken the time to define for themselves what’s most important about Christmas . . .
. . . While they have planned the details of their celebrations right down to the kind of cranberry sauce to serve at Christmas dinner, they haven’t stopped to ask themselves the all-important question: Why am I celebrating Christmas? They rely on habit, other people’s priorities, commercial pressures, or random events to determine the quality of their celebrations. But this is rarely successful. People need to make conscious choices, because Christmas offers them so many possibilities. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the pleasures of family life, the importance of friendship, the delight of creating a beautiful home environment, the need for world peace, the desire to be charitable, and a host of other important values. When people don’t sort out which of these ideas are most important to them, the celebration can seem fractured and superficial . . .
. . . When people haven’t resolved these larger issues, they find it hard to make the dozens of small decisions that confront them every day of the holiday season . . .
. . . we’ve been encouraged by how quickly and easily people can decide what’s most important to them. All they need to do is to become more aware of the need to make choices, have some sense of what those choices are, and set aside a little time to reflect on them. With just a few minutes of prayer, meditation or conscious decision-making, most people gain a much better sense of how Christmas should be.”
The authors included an exercise at the end of this chapter to help readers take a look at all the values competing for our attention at Christmas. For a print friendly version of this exercise in PDF, CLICK HERE.
“To complete the exercise, read through the following ten value statements . . . cross off those that have no importance to you and add any equally important ones that we have not included. Then decide which of the remaining values is most important to you. Put a 1 beside that sentence. Then find the one that is next important to you and put a 2 beside it. Continue in this manner until each statement has been assigned a different number. Even a value that has a low priority to you can still be important. Remember: 1 is the highest and 10 is the lowest.
Christmas is a time to be a peacemaker, within my family and the world at large.
Christmas is a time to enjoy being with my immediate family.
Christmas is a time to create a beautiful home environment.
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Christmas is a time to exchange gifts with my family and friends.
Christmas is a time for parties, entertaining and visits with friends.
Christmas is a time to help those who are less fortunate.
Christmas is a time to strengthen bonds with my relatives.
Christmas is a time to strengthen my church community.
Christmas is a time to take a few days off from work and have a good time. “
I’m going to get FirstHusband to work this exercise with me. I’m also going to ask FavoriteSon and PinkGirl to do it too. I think it will be an interesting and helpful process. Hope it helps you too!
“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.
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1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper for kids! There’s nothing like watching a kid tear into a present.
For grownups, I save a few trees and use gift bags, some of which I get back the next year. I admit, sometimes I wrap a gift in tissue paper before putting into a gift bag so there’s a little bit of a surprise left after looking or reaching into the bag.
2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. I LOVE the smell of a real tree, but I hate the kids on a nebulizer twice a day and I REALLY hate cleaning up cat vomit laced with chewed up pine needles. ewwww. Each kid has a small tree in their room. We had to get my son a new one last year and the cheapest one was 6 feet tall (skinny), so he has a full height tree in his bedroom now. I would have LOVED that when I was a kid.
3. When do you put up your tree?
The day after Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down?
Take the tree down? The first week of January.
When did the tree boxes get put back in the attic? Last year . . . I cannot tell a lie . . . sometime between Valentine’s day and St. Patrick’s day. It takes three very large boxes. I may buy smaller boxes this year. Boxes I can handle all by myself. There may be 12 boxes of Christmas tree parts, but if I can lift each one into the attic by myself, that’s fine with me.
5. Do you like eggnog?
yuk. My husband makes REAL eggnog and loves it.
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I can’t remember. I’ve thought about it for days and I can’t remember. Here’s the thing that came to me, time and time again. Christmas at my house, Santa brought everything. Everything was from Santa. Christmas afternoon at my house, I laid all my gifts out on my bed, so that my neighborhood friends could come see. Couldn’t see the bedspread, so much stuff!! I remember visiting my friend Cindy down the street. Santa brought her a cross necklace, a Bible and a doll. One doll. She had four brothers. Her mom didn’t work. Her dad owned a gas station. I remember asking my mom why Santa left me so much and didn’t give her hardly anything. I don’t remember the answer.
In my house, Santa leaves a few gifts, but mom and dad bring most everything. Santa is fair. Mom and dad are the source of stuff.
7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
We have two:
One is white bisque and sits on the middle of our dining table (the ONLY place the cats have learned NOT to jump on in the formal living areas).
The other is a tiny wood set I bought for my daughter to play with. She performs elaborate dramas which include everyone in the Bible Christmas story, all the Rudolph characters and all the characters from Santa Claus is coming to town. It’s quite interesting. Did you know that Rudolph gave baby Jesus a ride? This year, Hannah Montana is actually an angel.
8. Hardest person to buy for?
It’s funny. The people I find it the most difficult to buy for are the people who tell me exactly what to buy (and where to find it, how much it costs, etc). Sucks the Christmas spirit right out of me. I actually enjoy thinking about a person and finding a gift they might like. Sometimes I ask their close family ideas. I never ask them directly. Sometimes I’m wrong. But I think the real gift isn’t the thing in the wrapping paper, it’s the sentiment behind it. I’m teaching my children to be gracious gift receivers.
The same goes when people request that I tell them exactly what to buy for me (and where to find it, etc.). I just try to pick something easy and fast. If someone doesn’t know me well enough to pick out a thoughtful gift, I shouldn’t be on their to do Christmas list in the first place. Or at the very least I should be on a “gag gift” list. Now that’s fun.
9. Easiest person to buy for?
Anyone who understands that buying a gift is not a functional, irritating, time sucking task. A gift is just as much for the giver as the receiver. Remember that saying, “It’s the thought that counts?” I get it.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
hmmmm. I left this empty for a few days and still can’t come up with anything. Probably because I don’t just see the item by itself. I see the giver, not just the gift.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. With a Christmas letter in which we completely make fun of ourselves. No bragging here. We try to be as authentic as possible. Sometimes the letter goes out in January. Sometimes we send two years at a time because we wrote, but didn’t actually mail the previous year’s letter. Last year we didn’t even write a letter. Life is too busy.
12. Favorite Christmas movie?
Has to be “A Christmas Story.” “You’ll shoot your eye out!” “I can’t put my arms down!” “Daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie.” “Thtuck? Thtuck? Thtuck!!!!”
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Usually I buy a few gifts all year long, but we really buy the majority of the stuff on the annual shopping day my husband and I usually take. He takes off work on a weekday, we shop together when most people are at work and we knock out a significant percentage of it that one day. We make time to have a nice lunch together, and depending on the child care situation, maybe a nice dinner too. This year, our son, is 12 and (we hope) is old enough to babysit his sister for $2 per hour. If they call us, fighting, we’ve already decided our response: “Well, okay. We’re at Best Buy, but if you really need us to come home, I guess we will . . .” heh heh heh.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Recycled? nah. I either return stuff to Walmart, sell it on ebay or give it to charity. But I’ve often given used items as gifts. Especially books! Everyone who knows me, knows I think used books are a treasure! If it doesn’t stink like cigarettes or mildew, and hasn’t been completely highlighted by someone else, bring it on!
15. Favorite things to eat at Christmas?
Oh, and Crown Royal with Diet Sprite. We only buy it in December. Soooo smooth. The buttah of whisky.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Both. A base of white programable twinkle lights and some retro looking colored LED lights. We program the twinkle lights to “dance” to the Christmas music. We tried C7s for the colored lights, but the heat they generate could roast a marshmallow. These LEDs look the same as C7s, but with no heat. (NOT cheap to buy, but easy on the electric bill.)
17. Favorite Christmas song?
One? Pick one? Not going to happen.
Christian: So many, but one of my favorites is O Come O Come Emmanuel
Kids: The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas (“What’s a kielbasa? Pretty much just meat”)
Traditional: The Christmas Song (but only by Nat King Cole).
I also like “Bleak Mid Winter” by Pierce Pettis.
All played to twinkling Christmas tree lights.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home. Always Christmas morning at home. Used to do Christmas dinner at my parents, but a few years ago, we wanted to start making our own family traditions and memories, so we stay home for dinner now too. Everyone’s invited, sometimes they come, sometimes not. We always have a wonderful time. The kids each pick out a new recipe, we let them eat off china and drink out of crystal. My daughter decorates the table. It’s really wonderful. We’re making memories, not just dinner.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Well. Yes. I think. But is it Donner or Donder? I can’t ever figure it out! I’ve heard both. I bought some Christmas coffee mugs with a reindeer on each and it reads: Donner. I have no idea. I just sing it softly and hope my daughter doesn’t call me out.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Star. I don’t get the Angel thing at all. Looks uncomfortable if you ask me. Definitely rude.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Well, we actually have a tradition we call “Twelve Day” at our house. It started out as a way to give gifts that get ignored on Christmas morning, due to the overwhelming amount of stuff. We give a single gift to our kids each of the 12 days before Christmas. We gave a globe to my son one year and he and my husband sat on the couch and rolled it around, looking at the world for 20 minutes. Never would have happened on Christmas morning. Also a great way to turn a seasonal purchase into a gift – like a Christmas CD or DVD, Christmas clothes or jammies, ornaments, etc.. This way we enjoy them all Christmas season.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
People who buy the hottest items and then resell them for a huge markup. What goes around, comes around. Big greedy scrooges.
23. What is the “corniest” family tradition you do, or miss doing?
Gotta be the Mickey Wreath. Still do it. Can’t imagine Christmas without it.
24. Ugliest Christmas Decoration ever invented?
Plastic nose gays. Okay, maybe it’s just the ugliest NAME of a Christmas Decoration ever invented. The word “nose” should not be in the name of anything Christmasy.
25. Which looks the best, theme trees or homey trees?
Homey trees. Family trees. Memory trees. Unconditional trees.
26. What does Christmas mean to you?
When I was younger? Stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.
“Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.”
“It’s still a mystery to me
that the hands of God could be so small
How tiny fingers reaching in the night
were the very hands that measure the sky.
to save the world.
Son of God,
Here with us.
You’re here with us.”