It’s surrounding us already. Pintrest boards are awash with 12-days-of-Christmas-cookie-in-a-jar madness. Shutterfly insists daily in my inbox that I save 50% off holiday cards before it’s too late and that I order the new design that is “sure to stand out.” Twinkly lights adorn the isles where Halloween clearance is on its final legs. And Santa is taking lists at the local mall.
Let me say that last one again. Santa is holding court at the mall. And he has been there since November 17th.
When we passed by the center of the mall, No1 asked to go see the giant tree and to investigate if the snow was real. Sure, I told her. They’re probably just getting ready for Santa. As we walked by and she craned her neck around the giant plastic lollipops, her eyes widened. “Mommy. Stop. It’s…. Santa.”
At this point, I worry I gave away the truth when I failed to bubble over with excitement. After all, if the real Santa was in our little mall during possibly one of his busiest times of the year, I should have screamed like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert. As in, “Oh. My. God! SANTA?! HERE?! THE. SANTA. CLAUS?! What are the odds! In fact, I know the odds! They’re astronomical! We MUST go see him RIGHT. NOW! Does anyone have a CAMERA?! ” Instead, I responded with vague interest and attempted to disguise my contempt.
I love Christmas. Children believing in magic, listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. Decorating an indoor tree with glitter and baubles. Houses dressed up in bows and lights. Watching a friend open a gift chosen with intention and love. It’s a sacred time when people are all a bit kinder, softer, and warmer. A season for gratitude and taking time to slow down and engage with our loved ones.
At least that’s what I want it to be. Santa’s November 17th invasion of the mall wasn’t just an inconvenience causing me to have to tell my preschooler “no,” for the seventy-eighth time that day. It was a psychological advertising tactic, designed to create a sense of urgency and scarcity. The message was, “Santa’s already here, so you better get busy. You have so many gifts to buy and so little time.” I watched children sit with the bearded impostor for their pictures, parents glad to “have that checked off my list,” as I overheard one parent say. And the whole scene made me furious.
When did the holidays become nothing more than a series of checklists? Why do we all feel the need to shop early and get it all done so we can “enjoy the holidays?” Shouldn’t visiting Santa, writing out Christmas cards, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, baking cookies, and mixing up a batch of eggnog be the very things we do to enjoy the season? These things can be meaningful rituals if done mindfully and with intention. Instead, we’ve become so blinded by marketing and have gotten so caught up in finding the perfect gift and fulfilling the expectations of others, we’ve forgotten what kind of Christmases we want for ourselves. In our quest for more, we are seeking out quantity instead of quality.
This year, I’m not falling for it. This will be my Christmas of Less is More. No more comparing. No more rushing around or believing that a gift’s inherent value is proportional to its Black Friday discount. No more worrying about how my decorations measure up or if the tree could be just a little prettier. No more Christmas stress in November, for crying out loud.
I will focus on being present for each holiday preparation and on celebrating our family’s traditions. Does this mean I won’t send out Christmas cards or bake a gingerbread house? Will we permanently avoid a visit to Santa? Of course not. I’ll have to cut back on my holiday tasks, for sure, but I believe the ones I choose will each have more impact. And anytime I hear the seductive voice of self-doubt whisper the word should, I’ll turn inward and search for what I truly want to do.
After all, Christmas isn’t a time of obligation. It’s a time of celebration and jubilance, of good cheer and renewed hope. And this year, I hope to slow down enough to really soak it all in. You know, AFTER Thanksgiving.