3 Quick Ways to Get Better at Enjoying Christmas

Yesterday we had our first Christmas gathering at our church. We called it our “Advent Meal”. We’re trying to encourage a sense of anticipation and hope by following the Christian calendar in our gatherings, and yesterday was a fitting beginning to the holiday season. 

But Monday has arrived, and it doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. I want to celebrate–I really do–but maintaining perspective on the Christmas season can sometimes feel like a chore. Eventually I need the commercials and music playing over the loudspeakers at the mall to tell me how to feel about this season. 

But I married a woman who has no trouble celebrating Christmas. We have a video of her as a toddler, standing before the tree in innocent awe–and she hasn’t lost this spirit! I’ve learned a lot from her about Christmas, and she has made me remarkably better at enjoying this season. 

Here’s three simple things we do to get in the Christmas spirit–things I used to overlook–which will help you appreciate this season the right way.

1. Create your own simple traditions.

We all have holiday traditions. But many of us haven’t created our own. Our families and communities have given us ways of celebrating the holiday, and we’ve only done what we’ve inherited. 

By all means, keep the things that are meaningful to your community: go to your Christmas Eve service and help your Dad put up the Christmas lights. But make sure you’re starting your own traditions, too. The thing with traditions is they inevitably go back and forth between feeling alive and dead to us–watching Elf with your kids will feel less funny one year than the next, and maybe the tree doesn’t twinkle like it used to–but this is precisely why we have to create our own rhythms in our celebration.

Start with meaning and work your way out from there! Is the most beautiful part of the season how you get to spend time with friends and family? Set a date on the calendar, before Christmas, to eat some baking and watch Home Alone. Are you the more spontaneous type? Send word to your friends that you’re going to make a habit of ridiculous holiday surprises, beginning with going shopping with them while refusing to remove your Rudolph nose prop. Whatever it takes to make your own way of celebrating.

Just remember: your traditions won’t make Christmas come alive. But your traditions will help you get in the right frame of mind to enjoy the moments that do come alive to you.

2. Get your shopping done. 

Saying “Christmas is not about the presents” is a little disingenuous for many people. If you carve a few hours out of the morning of (or the night before) we honour Jesus’ birthday, then Christmas has at least *something* to do with the gifts we give.

But consumerism is part of the spirit of the age, and it wears on our souls. How do we enjoy giving and receiving gifts without the practice becoming destructive to the spirit of our holiday?

Just get it out of the way. Even if you enjoy it.

I used to be one of those people who procrastinated and thought I was doing myself a favour. It seemed like the best way to make Christmas about more than just presents was to leave my shopping until the last minute. Then I’d quickly get it out of the way in one or two last-minute trips. 

Eventually I caught on that whatever “good will toward men” I had accumulated was quickly lost after scrambling through Walmart on December 23rd.

My wife is an absolute genius in this respect. She knows how to filter someone’s Christmas list out by category and cost to not just get someone the best present, but the one most suitable for our relationship to them! 

At first I just thought I was lucky to be married to such an organized person. Now I realize I am free from any latent concern about the gifts under the tree. I’m free to glide about the city streets without having to filter everything I see through the gift-giving process–and it’s glorious! 

If you’re wondering where I am, I’m probably sipping back some egg nog, watching my son try to eat the low hanging ornaments. Enjoy your shopping!

3. Be benevolent in your generosity.

Most of us spend the majority of our energy and effort on giving to our family and friends. It’s so great to look after the ones you love, and I wouldn’t suggest reducing your efforts. Just don’t neglect being generous to those often neglected in the margins.

Christmas is all about charity. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas as a Christian, you can acknowledge how the festivities lend themselves to honouring the poor and needy. The legend of Saint Nick began when he looked after the poor in his town. Dear old Scrooge learns his lesson and begins caring for the people he used to take for granted. Heck, even the Grinch learns how to care for others through generosity. Why do we neglect to go out of our way to be generous to strangers?

It’s so easy to *want* to experience the Christmas spirit, and then totally miss the easiest way to celebrate the season. You see that homeless person begging outside the mall? Buy them a pair of gloves and a hot coffee! Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Pick a new charity and give them some cash! 

You can go beyond external, felt needs and just be charitable by nature. Buy the meal of the person behind you in the Drive Thru! Pick up the tab on a random table in a restaurant you’re eating at–and while you’re there, give the waitress a big tip! 

You don’t need anything beyond what you already have to celebrate Christmas, once you understand how generosity unlocks wonder. 

Give and it shall be given! It’s the simplest way to get caught up in the most wonderful time of the year.