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Why Christmas Was Different This Year

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Last year I made a decision not to celebrate Christmas. I had done an extensive amount of research into the pagan background, as well as the increased consumerism, along with more simplification info. I had made a decision that I didn’t want my family focused on Christmas because there was just so much about it I didn’t like. Christ wasn’t even born in December anyway, so why were we trying to put Him into something He was never in to begin with? And then my mother died.

My mother and I had been estranged for almost 5 1/2 years. After I had my daughter she started making excuses not to take us on the move to another state as planned. It hurt deeply knowing she lied about these excuses to not take us. Only several weeks after my little girl was born I had to move all my stuff out of the house because she was leaving the state and leaving us behind. I lived in an extended stay hotel with my newborn for several weeks until I found an apartment. And then I had to find a job, and leave my 6 week old infant in daycare, all because my mother decided she didn’t want us to go with her as planned. It was an extremely traumatizing time in my life, and it took me years to get to a place where I found healing. In fact, it wasn’t until after her death that I did truly begin to heal. I waited almost 6 years for her to make things right and she never did. Obviously she had issues, because abandoning your child and grandchild like that is not normal. She had a lot of emotional issues which she never dealt with. And last year she died 9 days before Christmas, leaving no chance to ever make things right.

Of course I felt loss at her death, but a lot of what I felt was bitterness and anger. I was so angry at her for what she did to us, how we had suffered because of that, and how she never tried to fix things. And worst of all, now she could never fix things. There was no going back. She was gone for good. It was good for me to grieve and let out all those emotions. It was a very hard time, but it was also a very good thing for me. I let go of a lot and began to find healing. I sought God out again as well, and found myself a good church. I made a choice not to live with regrets, and to make my life the best I possibly could, and to stick with my faith no matter what. Her death had a huge impact on my life in a positive way.

The holidays had always been rough for me. I had a lot of horrible experiences between October and January, so it made it a very difficult time for me each  year. I tried my best to make it through the holidays because I truly did want to enjoy them, I just couldn’t. All the pagan traditions and consumerism just gave me more cause to dump Christmas unceremoniously out the door. And then my mom died. So now I had even more cause. So last year we did not celebrate Christmas. No tree, no lights, no stockings, no Christmas music, no Christmas movies, nothing. We opened gifts sporadically, most were done on Thanksgiving which is actually a holiday to express thankfulness so it seemed more fitting. We spent Christmas day in our pajamas watching movies and napping. I spent much of the day crying on and off. It was a very sad day for me.

This year was the complete opposite. I wanted to see if I could bring joy back to the holidays, and after last year’s hard times I thought maybe it would be good to go all out and let go a little. We did a 6-7 foot tree decked out in lights and every single ornament we had. Presents were wrapped in eco-friendly cloth bags, because I couldn’t give up on who I am, and tucked under the tree. Stockings were hung and filled with little goodies. We listed to Christmas music starting after Thanksgiving and played it at home a lot. We got an Advent calendar as well, though it was never completed. We did the shopping, though because of some bad advice I went overboard but then had the sense to return much of it. It was a very typical Christmas season this year. So how do you think the actual Christmas day went? The exact same as last year. I spent much of the day in tears, grieving and hurting, and we ended up cancelling or plans and spending the day at home in pajamas watching movies. It was a very sad day for me.

What happened? I did two very different types of holiday and yet the result was the same. What I’ve realized is that it doesn’t matter how I do it, right now these are times for healing for me and should be spent finding that and not holding emotions in to create a fantastic holiday or do what other people want. To be honest, in the beginning it was really fun for me. I really enjoyed having fun with it and purposely finding joy in the season. That is something I want to keep, the ability to restore joy in times that previously were not fun at all. But I think I expected too much of myself too soon. It’s only been one year since I lost my mom, and I’m still working through all that. I needed a day to grieve, and get out a flood of emotions, and cry. Christmas just happened to be that day. I’m okay with that. I have an amazing little girl who spent the day playing with her wooden Melissa & Doug princess castle and snuggling her mom. She was thrilled with her gifts, even though we returned a lot (and I explained why to her), and she had fun opening things and playing with them. It was not our perfect day BY FAR but it wasn’t completely miserable either, and I made a lot of progress in my  healing.

Next year no tree. Mainly because it died and left a huge mess of dried needles that clogged my vacuum 5 times. I think next year will be really low key, with a few presents wrapped in cloth bags, and our ornaments strung up on ribbon or rope and decorating the house like garland. I think the simplistic approach is a good one, and it keeps peace in the home and stress out. I highly recommend reading Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays (Elaine St. James Little Books), it has a lot of great tips for simplifying your holiday in a way that is good for your family. I enjoyed reading it and will be implementing a lot of it next year. And I am actually looking forward to next year no matter how we celebrate or don’t celebrate it! 🙂

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