Just one week ago I would have said, “Four days to Christmas and I’m already over it!”
It was hot. The roads and shopping malls were packed and the list of all the things I was supposed to do to ensure everybody had a Merry Christmas was growing by the minute. If this was Christmas, the most magical time of the year, then I was over it. Even though the Christmas Tree stood in the corner, beautifully decorated by Bec, and the Christmas Carols were reverberating through the house, I could not summon an ounce of excitement, or anything remotely like joy, peace or love.
It didn’t used to be this way
I remember the excitement and magic of Christmas when I was a child: counting down the days, wondering what surprise would be waiting for me under the Christmas Tree, watching John Martin’s Christmas Pageant wind its way through the city streets of Adelaide. I remember the taste of Grandma’s Christmas Pudding, the joy of playing with far-flung cousins, and the mystery of why the adults preferred to sleep the afternoon away.
What happened? How did Christmas cease to be magical? When did it become a focal point for stress and panic, and a symbol of greed, waste and over consumption?
It seems I am not alone
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I came across quite a few posts and articles advocating a simpler approach to celebrating Christmas. In our house we had already been wondering about some of the so-called Christmas traditions and questioning why we do the things we do and who says we should do them. I mean, do we even like turkey?
Sometimes it feels like we get so overwhelmed with the traditions of a celebration (not just Christmas, but any celebration) that the whole reason we are celebrating in the first place, is forgotten. Perhaps we need to take a simpler approach to celebrations. We could spend less, eat less, stress less and instead, celebrate the reason more.
As it turned out, I did recover my Christmas Spirit. And it wasn’t from spending more or doing more but by stepping back and enjoying the things that are right in front of me.
So here are my three tips for recovering the Spirit of Christmas.
Let the kids do the cooking
One of the best things about having young adult children is that they can start to take over the domestic tasks of family celebrations. I actually don’t like cooking much at all. It seems like a waste of time slaving over a hot stove just to have it all wolfed down in five minutes. Lucky for me, Dan and Bec love cooking, well cooking the sweet things, that is. So, I do the mains, Bec does the desserts. It’s a good arrangement. Mind you, nobody waxes lyrical about a potato salad in the way they do over a fancy pavlova or layered trifle. You can see Bec’s contributions below.
And Dan is not to be left out either. Since the group activities at Yellow Bridge have finished for the year, he has been doing some cooking with his support time. Check out his Gingerbread Biscuits and White Christmas.
Okay, so the White Christmas fell apart a little, but it tastes much better in big chunks than little pieces.
Focus on one tradition that has meaning for you
Since we moved to Toowoomba, we have been living in two houses; one here, and one back out west. This means that some of our good stuff has been back at the other house. It’s been three years since I’ve had my Nativity set out and I didn’t realise how meaningful that tradition was, until I retrieved it this year. It was quite surprising how the ritual of unpacking each piece and placing it in the scene carved out a special quiet time for reflection.
There are many traditions we could probably do without, but you just need one to rediscover the joy and magic of Christmas.
Celebrate time together
As almost empty nesters, daily life with Dan and Bec is slowly drawing to a close. Next year Bec leaves home to begin study in Brisbane. Within the next few years we hope Dan will make the transition into supported accommodation. This is probably our last Christmas with them both still living at home.
Family life with autism is always a bit different. Even though Dan is the eldest, he is the older-younger child. From a very young age, Bec has been the younger-older child. As a two-year old she was reminded to look after Dan at the playground, even though he was nearly two years older. It’s not easy for a child to grow up with a sibling who has a disability. There are just some things that peers can never understand unless they are walking the same journey.
For the most part, Dan and Bec get along really well. While Bec often needs time on her own, she shows generosity and patience with Dan, prepared to sit down and play UNO, help him play the Wii or kick the soccer ball around.
Watching them play a game together reminded me of the need to celebrate whatever time we have together. We never know when it may come to an end.
And what was under the Christmas Tree?
I hope your Christmas was filled with the love of family, the joy of meaningful traditions and the peace of simplicity.