I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to have become a huge retail opportunity and December seems to have been overtaken by school plays, parties and shopping for endless presents, cards and food. Plus the hype starts so early these days, with shops & TV adverts advertising Christmas months in advance. Some years you can arrive at the big day itself totally exhausted, and glad it’s almost all over!
So, how can you counteract all this and rekindle the spirit of Christmas? Christmas means different things to different people, so first of all it’s worth just spending a little time reflecting on what makes it special to you, so that you can recapture that which lies at the heart of the celebration. Start, or reintroduce, some family traditions which will help you ‘signpost’ Christmas and help make the focus not the presents or the shopping, but the things you do with family & friends. Here are some of mine:-
Writing Christmas cards is one of the bigger tasks, but also one I find really enjoyable. There are many different categories of people who I send to – friends, family, colleagues etc, some of whom the annual Christmas card is our only contact of the year. However it is still important as it is a way of staying connected, of letting people know they are in your thoughts, and a chance to let them know all the important things which have happened in your life in the past year. Rather than avoid this ‘task’ or do it all in one go, why not pour yourself a drink and aim to do few each night. Think about why you are sending a card to that person and include a special personal message – so much nicer than a mass produced round robin or just your name. The added bonus is a short period of sitting will help you relax in what is a manic month. If you print your address labels this also makes the task shorter and easier.
I love Christmas trees, and decorating a real tree is one of my favourite jobs. Since having the children we have always done this one evening when they are in bed, and part of the excitement is to bring them down the next morning and show them the tree with its lights on in the still dark lounge. We also buy each of our children a new Christmas decoration each year, so they love trying to find the new decoration hidden in the branches. This is an idea I read about a few years ago, and the reasoning is when your children leave home you can present them with a box of decorations to have on their first tree.
Christmas Eve is a really key time for us, and we always go to church to watch the Sunday school nativity. It is something which I have pursuaded my friends to try doing with their families as well. You don’t have to be a church goer, and most churches are welcoming of everybody. It is a lovely way to spend an hour with candles and carols and hearing the story of the first Christmas.
For me Christmas spirit is also about great smells and tastes and an excuse to cook and bake even more than normal! Simply baking some gingerbread cookies, making a pan of mulled wine or warming some mince pies to have with a hot chocolate, all creates lovely rich flavours and aromas which help you feel Christmassy. Lighting a cinnamon spiced candle and putting on a Christmas CD all adds to the atmosphere.
It is very hard when you are so busy to find time just to stop and enjoy and feel, but even if you can find 5 minutes each day to do/smell/think/feel the Christmas Spirit it will make the whole experience more enjoyable and bring back some of the magic that came so naturally when we were children.