Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. The carols, the decorations, the cheesy festive telly, I love it all. My husband and I even got married at Christmas time because we both feel it’s the most magical time of the year.
But is it just me or is the pressure to create the perfect Christmas becoming more intense?
The notion that we’re losing the true meaning of Christmas isn’t a new one, but the intensifying pressure to be a “Pinterest Parent” is definitely a sign of the times. You can’t go on social media without seeing pictures of elaborate decorations, Michelin star worthy food and piles of wrapped up presents.
Perhaps I’m noticing it all more now my children are older, especially as they now come home from school asking why we don’t have a naughty elf like their friends do.
The gifts seem more expensive than ever – apparently the must have toy for girls this year is a £100 life like doll. £100! I can’t be the only one who finds that price tag ridiculous. Luckily my little girl is still too young and so will be just as happy with the small collection of toys we have bought her.
We now have the relatively new phenomenon of the Elf On The Shelf: an elf that comes to visit and gets up to mischief each night while the children sleep. Seriously, who can be bothered? (Lazy parent, me?!) When my kids are finally asleep my husband and I collapse on the couch in an exhausted heap. The last thing we feel like doing is spending our evenings creating elaborate scenes so we can post the pictures on Facebook. We do have an elf, but he sits on the shelf keeping an eye on the children to make sure they remain on the good list. He may move from the shelf to the Christmas tree, or on top of the TV but that’s as creative as we get.
It’s not just the elf though. It’s the festive crafts, the baking, the North Pole breakfast, the Christmas Eve boxes. Not forgetting the regular old Christmas tasks such as food shopping, nativity plays, carol concerts, school fayres and grottos. All of these must be done while looking beautifully presented and full of festive cheer.
It’s exhausting and to be completely honest it’s ruining Christmas for me.
As a blogger I should be posting beautiful pictures on Instagram, creating pinnable festive crafts. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m not that kind of blogger!
This is beginning to make me sound like the Grinch which saddens me because I’m really not. No-one loves Christmas more than me. But as Dr Seuss himself says:
“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
I have such happy memories of my childhood Christmases. My beloved grandparents coming to our house for the day. My Grandad looking around at the gifts and saying ‘haven’t we all done well” before promptly falling asleep in the chair. I remember watching the Christmas edition of Top of The Pops with my sister while my mum and Gran bustled around in the kitchen. My Gran popping her head in and doing a little dance to whatever song was playing. I remember my Dad wearing a Santa hat while singing loudly (and tunelessly!) to Slade. I remember us putting the decorations on the tree only for my mum to rearrange them all so they looked “just so”. Playing board games as a family, watching A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, going to church with my Dad.
When I look back on the those Christmases I don’t remember the presents I was given. I don’t remember the decorations. I don’t remember any of those things.
I remember how I felt. That sense of magic, feeling anything was possible at Christmas. I remember the happiness and the laughter. The simple joy of spending the day with those I loved the most.
Christmas isn’t about “things”. It’s about spending time with your loved ones. It’s thinking of those less fortunate than you. It’s a time for generosity and kindness and love.
I don’t want my kids looking back at their childhood Christmases and remembering their mum being a stressed out mess. I don’t want to look back and realise I was so busy attempting to be the perfect parent that I didn’t stop to enjoy it.
So this year I’ve decided to strip it back. We still have our own traditions (I did a post about them here) and they work for us. Instead of stressing myself out trying to squeeze as many festive activities into December as possible, I’m taking a more relaxed approach. We’re having cosy days in with board games and Christmas songs. We’re watching festive films as a family.
Our kids don’t need us to be the perfect parents. They just want to love and be loved.
After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
“I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.”
Norman Vincent Peale.