“It Just Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas!”

outoffocus_christmas_lights_195410

One of the hard things about married life has been adjusting to the fact that holiday traditions – especially Christmas ones – will never be the same again.  I will never get to go back to the Christmas Days I enjoyed growing up.

I don’t get cozy new jammies and a book from my parents on Christmas Eve anymore.

I don’t get to sit with my siblings at the top of the stairs, antsy and eager, and then rush down to see our “big gifts” sitting unwrapped in the middle of the room.

For several early years of our marriage I didn’t get a stocking to empty.

The tattered quilt of tradition

I’ve spent years clinging to “the way it used to be,” desperately tugging together the disparate bits of joy I remember from my youth and trying to piece them into a familiar kind of Christmas, like a ragtag patchwork quilt.

But no matter how I finagle it, of course it is never quite the same.

I had far too many items on the list of “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless…!”

– unless we have that delicious chocolate raspberry trifle
– unless we arrive at my family’s early enough to be there when my siblings come downstairs
– unless I have a stocking to open
– unless we do an advent calendar
– unless we watch these specific Christmas movies during December
– unless, unless, unless

And somehow I had to fit these “feel like Christmas musts” into a life that now includes not one family but two…a life where we switch back and forth between my husband’s family and mine for Christmas Day…a life where we celebrate with the other family on Christmas Eve in “off years” (opening presents before Christmas!  Horrors!)…a life with very small children (currently battling pink eye!).

This is the year that I finally let it go.

I stopped asking myself, “How can I make this Christmas feel as much like my childhood memories as possible?” and instead I’m wondering, “What kind of Christmas memories do I want my children to have?” and planning my own traditions accordingly.  I’m not trying to replicate my childhood – wonderful though it was – but taking the life we have and making a joyous Christmas of it.  It includes many familiar traditions, but I mean to create memories for my kids, not only tickle my own sense of nostalgia.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

As much as we might say, “Don’t forget Jesus is the reason for the season!” it’s easy to get caught up in nostalgic family traditions and value those above what’s truly important: the reality that Christ has come into the world – for the lost, for the lonely, for the hurting.  He comes to mend broken hearts, to bind up the wounded, to give His life for the repentant Pharisee and the repentant reprobate alike.

In this world, nothing is certain.  Traditions have to change.  People move away.  Beloved family members die.  There are empty chairs around many Christmas tables as children move out and start their own families or new jobs across the country.  In some homes, mothers hold together Christmas traditions for their children, all while knowing that inside their belly, the tiny bundle of joy that was going to grace their coming New Year no longer has a beating heart.  There are many who could listen to the Whos’ refrain in the old, animated Grinch movie – “Christmas Day is in our grasp as long as we have hands to clasp!” – and can only think of the hands they do not have any more to hold.

My own “complaints” are nothing compared to those who are truly feeling the loss of “Christmas Past” or even any “Christmas Present.”  For as many as celebrate the holidays with perfect peace, there are equally as many or more hearts crying out, “How long, Lord?  How long?”

For when it doesn’t feel like Christmas

Some days and some years, it just won’t “feel like Christmas”.  And that’s okay.  We can’t hold on to Christmas traditions and warm holiday fuzzies eternally, but we can hold on to the true and greatest gift of God.  There is a King Who has come, Who is here, and Who is coming again, and He is preparing a place for us.

This year I am determined to be done thinking, “Ugh, it really doesn’t feel like Christmas,” when things don’t go my preferred way, and instead proclaim with joy, in good times and bad, “It’s Christmas!!  Let’s celebrate!”

There are times the glowing lights, traditions, sweets, and decorations seem tacky, unfamiliar, or shallow to us.  But there is never a time we cannot claim the promise of God and sing with grateful hearts, “Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!”

He is here to bring us a sure, unbroken eternity of joy.

O come, let us adore Him!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2:10-14

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Leave a comment

10 Comments

  1. Kessie

     /  December 24, 2014

    Yeah, I’ve struggled with that, too. Especially when the kids are little and don’t seem to “get” it. Then we moved away from my entire family and all the fun, and I had to realize that I’m the Mom now. And if I don’t make Christmas special, there’s nobody else to do it for me.

    So we’re thrashing out Christmas traditions a year at a time. My hubby getting one day off in a nine-day shift (Christmas) means we’re too exhausted to do anything too strenuous.

    Reply
    • Moving away from the entire family would be SO hard. I do not envy families that have done that! I guess my family did that to some extent when we moved to NH and had a few Christmases with just the 5 of us. But on the other hand, it does bring you close together as a family!

      I hope your Christmas is happy and blessed despite the exhaustion!

      Reply
  2. This was beautiful and I love it. I struggled with this a lot as well when I first got married. Christmas felt so strange. Now, twelve years in and we have settled into a comfortable chaos between both families. But things always change and you do have to decide what to hold onto and what to let go of…. and you are right. The only thing that gives us the ability to do that is remembering the point of Christmas. Merry Christmas dear! Thanks for blessing my year with your blog and support of mine!

    Reply
  3. What a fantastic post! It’s true…sometimes it DOESN’T feel like Christmas and I was always the “we-must-hold-with-tradition!” member in my family. Now I’ve spent the past three Christmases traveling around and feeling like I was “missing” Christmas.

    But this year we’re home for Christmas, starting our own traditions, and finally realizing that it doesn’t have to be about the decorations or the “feel” or how much snow we got or whether we’re traveling or staying.

    I’m excited to finally learn what *right* celebration looks like when we’re intentional about it…no matter where we are.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Nadine!! Such kind words. I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂 This year we have the snow issue too…I grew up in CA so snow isn’t a “must” of Christmas for me, but most years here in NH it *is* snowy, and this year it’s in the 50’s and raining! So weird. I know my winter-loving mom is having trouble with that. 😉

      Reply
  4. *hugs* I’ve been there too, and am currently there this year. I needed this, thank you.

    Reply
    • Oh, don’t worry about me! I’m happy this year because I’ve been glum in previous years and this year I’m not worrying about the “musts” anymore. 🙂 I’m sorry you’ve been having some Christmas doldrums! I hope this post gave you some encouragement. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Merry Christmas to you too!
    And you should totally tell your husband to get you a stocking. My husband and I still exchange stockings with each other. 😀 (I get an Easter basket too!)

    Reply
    • Oh, we’ve been filling stockings for each other since last Christmas! That’s why I said the “first few years of our marriage” I didn’t have a stocking. Now we do. 🙂

      Reply

I love to hear your thoughts!