Christmas Spirit

25 12 2012

The holiday season and what it means to me has changed many times over the years. As a child it meant baking my grandma’s sugar cookie recipe with my mom, and presents from Santa. We would sometimes visit with my mom’s family in Calgary or my dad’s mom would come to visit from Pincher Creek. It was always spent with family and we made many fond memories.

My spirit disappeared when the truth about Santa was discovered. As a teen I was still interested in baking but I wanted to bake with my friends and was more concerned about what my gifts would be than what the meaning of Christmas was.

When my children were young my spirit returned and it became all about the magic of Christmas once again. I was excited about baking with them and helping them decide what Santa could bring them on Christmas Day. There were letters and visits to Santa paired with picking up last minute items from the mall. I loved having our family pictures taken so I could insert them into the Christmas Cards that I had taken time to write a personal heartfelt message in while listening to Christmas carols in our home.

Then something changed for me. I am not sure when it happened but all of a sudden our home had 11 Christmas trees( not exaggerating) which I started decorating as soon as the Halloween decorations were tucked away. Each tree had a theme and I spent many painful hours (because I felt everything had to be perfect) decorating the trees and my house to make others have a smile on their face when they came through the door. There were many comments about how beautiful my trees and our home was and how it all looked like something out of a magazine.

We had always invited people into our home on Christmas Eve to enjoy appetizers and home baked goodies. It started out as a small gathering and over the years it turned into over 100 people dining on appetizers a full homemade buffet dinner and goodies. I would spend weeks in my kitchen cooking and freezing dishes in preparation for one night.

I was so stressed and so busy that I could no longer take my kids out on Christmas Eve for the traditional picture with Santa. I had to ask my husband to do that “chore”. When had it turned into a chore and why?I was stressed because I wanted the house to be perfect and for everyone to enjoy themselves and have a great time. I know that the days leading up to Christmas Eve I was difficult to be around because there was always so much to do and time was running out and I was snapping at anyone that looked at me the wrong way because of the stress I was feeling.

As always the Christmas Eve party would go off without a hitch. Everyone had full stomachs, Santa would make his appearance and each child would receive a Christmas ornament and have a picture taken with Santa. We would play the gift exchange game and fight over how many steals were allowed and how to actually play the game. There were a lot of smiles and laughter and everyone made it home safely in anticipation of Christmas morning. I would not sit down once the entire evening and never had the chance to enjoy the evening or catch up with the people I only saw once a year at our Christmas Eve get together. My husband and kids would go to bed once the guests left and I would spend the following two, or three hours cleaning up, assembling anything that needed to be assembled. I’d fluff up a few bows on the presents (for one of my best girlfriends who always made a note for me to fluff up the bows on the presents she sent out to us) and I would collapse into bed.

Sometimes there was only and hour from the time I went to bed until the time the alarm went off. I set an alarm so the tree could be lit up for the family and to put the final touches on the Christmas Breakfast dishes I had prepared ahead so I just had to pop them in the oven.

The number of gifts from Santa and from family and friends were ridiculously plentiful. When the kids were little we took the time to watch everyone open their gifts one at a time but as the years passed we lost that tradition and seemed to race through the opening so that no one really saw what anyone else had received. If we watched everyone open all of their gifts we would be spending hours and hours opening gifts. I am pretty confident that my kids would not be able to answer who gave them what because the number of gifts were overwhelming. I’d hate to accuse my kids of not appreciating the gifts they were given but how can you appreciate them when their were to many to count.

Christmas breakfast was one of a few times a year that we all ate breakfast together with Easter and New Years day being the other two. I loved Christmas morning breakfast because I knew that everyone loved what I had prepared ( it was the same dishes every year) so there was never ever any complaining because someone didn’t like something. Everyone was happy around the table and I could look at my children and reflect on how much they had changed from the year before. This was the one part of Christmas that never changed for me.

Then my life had a big shake up! I found myself in the middle of a divorce that I had initiated. I was forced to look at my life and figure out what it was that I wanted for myself and my children. I realized very quickly that I wanted a simple life. I wanted to spend time with my kids, my extended family and my close friends. I also wanted a simple traditional Christmas. I wanted to go back to the way it had been when I was growing up and when my kids were really little, before consumerism got the best of me and Christmas became a stressful and not the special time of year it was meant to be.

I used to say that Christmas was my favourite time of year and I then I realized that, that statement had been a lie for many years because I had come to hate Christmas. So this year, I sold, gave away or donated most of my Christmas decorations keeping only what meant something to me. I spent time looking through all of the ornaments my children had received and made over the years. I decorated one tree and decorated our home simply and did not even put up outside Christmas lights.

I wrapped all of the gifts in my spare time over a few days rather than taking weeks to complete that task. I have gifts under the tree but they are not taking over my living room as they have in the past.

I have spent spare time with friends at the ceramics studio (Danielle’s) making gifts for family and friends and have discovered that I am actually quite creative with a paint brush. It is amazing how much more excited I have been about the gifts I am giving knowing that several were made by me and not just a shirt that I picked up from a large fashion chain. If you do receive a shirt from me, I don’t love you any less it just means that you are probably male and would appreciate a shirt more than a hand painted plate or platter.

Michael Buble’s Christmas CD plays constantly in my car (sorry kids but if momma is nice enough to give you a drive you have to put up with me playing track 5 & 12 over and over) where I, have taken the time to listen to the words to the carols because my mind is not filled with a huge to do list. I will be spending Christmas Eve with a few best friends, my brother, our parents and my amazing boyfriend while our children spend the evening with our ex’s. Christmas day will be spent with my children where we will open our gifts one a time and enjoy and appreciate each gift we receive.

Christmas evening will be spent with my best friend and her family which is a tradition that my children and I enjoy probably more than any other Christmas tradition. We will dine on a meal fit to be served at the Empress and play the gift game (can’t wait to see who ends up with a fondue pot). There will not be any stress just friends family and making magical memories.

The Christmas Spirit is back and alive in my home and my heart and I promise I will do whatever it takes to keep it there permanently this time.

Merry Christmas! I hope that the Christmas Spirit is alive and well in your heart and your home.