Advent was a season I had never given much thought to in years past. Beyond the candles burning at Sunday masses, an evening reconcilliation service and the promise of a Nativity scene, Advent didn't really register to me.
Until I started to slow things down.
First, I cut out a lot of clutter around the holidays. Over the years, I've worked most of my Christmas shopping to where my gift buying was completed over months, not weeks or days. Instead of a mad scramble to find something that "fit" the person on Black Friday, I slowly discovered gift ideas over the seasons. Come this Thanksgiving, I really only had a gift or two left to purchase, December birthdays included.
Further slowing my life down was my husband's unemployment/underemployment the last few years. Suddenly dinners out and shows seemed like unnecessary extravagances. Would I like to see Transiberian Orchestra? Of course. And some year it may happen. Just not this one. Instead I've begun searching for Christmas activities in our community that don't necessitate a $100 outlay. Like community Christmas tree services. Or a visit to Santa. Or the free day at the holiday trains at Garfield Park. Or the Nativity show at our parish.
Putting a focus on the Christmas season has helped our family put it back in the right focus. This year, I've made an ardent effort not to schedule non-Christmasy things on our calendar. Yes, we missed Scout night at the circus, and stayed home and played games and watched Rudolph. And other than a small family dinner and treats at the daycare, my son's birthday will be celebrated with friends after the Christmas business dies down. I don't know that either will be missed.
Instead of being stressed about errands, I can focus on my family. We can bake a batch of cookie if we want. Or read Christmas stories from around the world from the library. Or bring out more Christmas decorations. Or take them to play at the park for hours on a warm day without thinking about the "I need to do" list. Or (gasp!) even focus on cleaning our house for our Christmas company.
Is it tough to make a conscious choice to slow down during the Christmas season? You bet. But trading off the calendar items, the unneccessay errands, the stressed shoppers and children, it makes it all worth it. And I hope my family is happier for it.