You don’t have to experience many Christmases before the comparison game begins. Children remember their biggest presents, their Elf on the Shelf’s most challenging hiding places, the time when your home was the most elaborately decorated (interior and exterior) and how early in the season the decorating began. They remember the year your dog wore a Santa costume throughout December and that time when you perfected a peppermint hot chocolate recipe and served it every night.
The combination of such memories, embellished by time and imagination, contributes to the magic of the season.
But while children’s memories are relatively short-term, ours span a longer period. We not only remember traditions carried down from year to year but also from generation to generation. I remember the homemade chocolate covered cherries and steaming pots of hot cocoa my grandmother served on Christmas Eve and how my mother hand-spun elaborate bows out of rolls of ribbon to top our perfectly wrapped presents. I remember pulling taffy with my great-aunts while my parents attended grown-up holiday parties and the series of stops on our annual Christmas tour as we visited family, both local and out-of-state. I remember cutting, sewing, and stuffing fabric ornaments to hang on our tree.
I also remember the times as an adult when I did Christmas better — when I mailed Christmas cards (on time) with family photos; when I baked batches of hot, homemade cinnamon rolls and our children delivered them to the neighbors; when I led month-long Christmas-themed devotionals around our kitchen table at night; when I crafted thoughtful, individual gifts by hand.
No matter our age, we all enter the Christmas season with expectations influenced by past Christmases. And as women, we are often the ones expected to make the magic happen. Some years, the time and resources just aren’t there, but other years (and this one leaves us feeling so guilty), it’s our desire and motivation that have gone missing.
We can blame it on current events — no matter how much we want to shake off the pandemic, the world around us has changed — but for some of us the pandemic is merely an excuse, an easy scapegoat for feelings of inadequacy and the fear of not meeting the expectations of those around us. As if Christmas was about us anyway.
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