Friday, 6 December 2013

What My Christmas Tree Taught Me

When I was a young wife, houseproud and anxious to make a perfect Christmas, I put our tree up on December first and took great care in decorating it. 

As the years passed by, the tree went up later and later. Eventually a year came when we put the tree up on Christmas Eve. The next year we put the tree up but never got around to decorating it.  The year after that we didn't get around to putting a tree up at all.

That was the year I finally realized that I don't like decorating a Christmas tree. I don't want to spend hours carefully placing ornaments only to spend more hours just a few weeks later taking them all down and storing them away again.

Now we celebrate Christmas without a tree.  Neither of us miss it at all, and I'm very grateful to have that chore crossed off my list.

Given my dislike of decorating a tree, you can imagine how I felt when I arrived at the office this week to find that one of my co-workers had donated a Christmas tree, and to learn that I was expected not only to decorate it, but to go shopping for the ornaments during my not-working hours.

Let's just say I was not delighted.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, first of all because we all feel pressured to create a perfect, never-happens-in-real-life holiday and I want you to know that - despite a gazillion Pinterest posts, seasonal how-to TV shows, and glossy magazine covers - you can choose to do just the things you love. It's perfectly okay to forget about the rest.

If decorating the tree, or frosting beautiful sugar cookies, or singing carols, or going for walks in the snow, or knitting Christmas stockings brings you joy, by all means do those things.  If any of those things don't bring you joy, feel free to set them aside in favour of creating a happy holiday that works for you.

If you want pulled pork sandwiches instead of turkey, or chocolate cake instead of Christmas pudding, if you want to spend the day watching a Star Wars marathon instead of "It's a Wonderful Life," if you choose not to make that wreath for the front door, I can assure you that the holiday police will not come pounding on your door.

I can tell you, too, that no one will care if the things you do choose to do are less than perfect.  Your loved ones are far more interested in spending time with a happier you than they are in being entertained in a house that looks like a feature from Better Homes and Gardens.

That having been said, we all know full well that there are also holiday obligations we can't forgo.   Like my office Christmas tree, there are some chores we just have to do.  Sometimes they're work obligations. Other times they're obligations taken on because we know that, even though we don't love them, they bring joy to someone we love.  

If I had kids in the house whose eyes lit up every time they saw the tree, I'd take the time to put it up, however much I dislike the chore.

So how do we deal with those obligations we don't enjoy but can't forgo?

We each have our own way of coping.  I'm learning to paste a smile on my face and get the chore out of the way. Grumbling isn't going to make the process any more enjoyable.  It will only make those around me unhappy or uncomfortable.  If I dispense with my obligation with good cheer it's likely to go more smoothly, and the sooner I'm done with it the sooner I can get back to doing the things I do want to do.

So right now I'm turning on the Christmas music, making some hot chocolate, and rolling up my sleeves. I'm sure the tree will look lovely when it's done.