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Christmas Vacation?

on November 24, 2012

This is actually something I wrote last year around this time.  I didn’t have a blog then it was just something running through my head so I wrote it down.  A friend read it and encouraged me to send it in to our local paper.  I did just that and much to my shock they published it shortly before Christmas last year.  While it may be cheating to “re-blog” this year as I read it over recently and I realized that a lot of it remains true this year.  I think perhaps I’ve learned a Life Lesson so I thought I’d share it with you.  Here is to kicking off the season with the right perspective.

While watching a family favorite Christmas movie last night, I was struck by the parallels of the movie and the way my life is playing out this Christmas.  For those unfamiliar with the movie “Christmas Vacation”: it tells the story of a man who wants to have the “perfect family Christmas” and the often hilarious things that happen to him and his family as he strives to achieve it.  Despite all his planning, all his dreaming, all that he does to make things “perfect”, nothing goes right for him and the family Christmas falls apart: ending with fires and swat teams invading the house.  Most of us laugh throughout the movie because somewhere in us we can all relate to at least part of his struggle: whether it be odd relatives or just the sense of “nothing is going right.”   This year, the movie made me ponder the question: “What IS the ‘perfect Christmas’?  What does it look like? What is essential for Christmas to be perfect?”

We all have an image in our heads of what the perfect Christmas suppose to look like, sound like, taste like, feel like. We all have a standard, whether it be considered high or low, of how we think things should go to make them “perfect.”  To some of us the perfect Christmas starts with the perfect tree or the perfect decorations. Every light has to twinkle, every ornament glimmer, every hall must be festively “decked”, or it just isn’t Christmas.  For some it is finding the perfect gift for everyone we know.  It has to be the most astounding, mind-blowing thing that no one else on the planet would even think to get them.  Or it must be the most thoughtful, the most handmade with love, the most special thing they have ever received.  For others, it’s all about the food. Perfect cookies, perfect appetizers, perfect dinners, perfect eggnog (is that even possible??) all add up to us hosting perfect parties that people will talk about for months to come.  Some want to perfectly implement traditions, that their parents didn’t implement perfectly in the first place, while others want to attend every perfectly festive function and make sure our kids experience the perfect Christmas season by attending every kid-friendly perfect function.  For most of us it is a combination of some or all of those things that make for the “perfect Christmas.”  Is it any wonder that by the time we finish unwrapping our perfectly wrapped gifts and cleaning up after our perfectly cooked meals we have lost our perfectly sane minds?

I took an impromptu poll of my Facebook friends and posed the question: “What do you need to have the perfect Christmas.”  Interestingly enough every person who answered said something that in some way related to family or relationships. I can honestly say that I was expecting those answers.  We all say “I just want to be with my kids” or “I just want my family together” and for the most part, that is true. However I have to ask: is that really all we want or is that the answer we feel expected to give?  If all we had were our family in a room with no decorations, no gifts, no special food, nothing but time to just spend together, would we really consider it a perfect Christmas?  I so appreciate my two friends who answered, “my family and….” went on to list things like snow and hot cocoa and games and twinkly lights.  That’s an honest answer:  “I want relationships AND….”  Clark, from the Christmas movie, wanted his family around him AND all the stuff he believed would make Christmas perfect.

This year, because of circumstances related to a job change and an extended training time of less income, we are forced to either cut back the things that we regularly do for Christmas or not pay our bills.  Since the thought of not having heat for Christmas and the New Year is more disconcerting to me than the thought of not having the correctly scented candles burning or the proper Christmas goodies stashed, the bills are being paid and Christmas, well, it just isn’t going to be “perfect.”  I have for weeks struggled with the things that I wish I could do, love to do, want to do, but am not able to do this year.  It’s been a walk through sorting out what is really important and what isn’t  It has been a wrestling with coming to grips with my perceptions of a perfect Christmas. What we can live without and what we can’t. And, oddly enough, what I do because of my pride and what I do because I truly want to bless others. OUCH!

For years, I have spent a good part of the month of December baking an assortment of Christmas cookies and candies and then overloading friends and family with goody baskets.  I love to bake: a love that was handed down from my grandmothers and makes me think of them as I pull out their tried and true recipes every year at Christmastime.  I love passing down that tradition to my kids. It makes me feel a connectedness to the past and the future: one of those warm fuzzy Christmas-y feelings.  This year the baking list has been cut from dozens of recipes to about three, which is all we will be able to afford to do.  I asked my family for their most favorite treats and that is what we are making.  That’s it.  That’s the extent.  There will be no goody baskets to hand to friends, teachers, co-workers. Just a few favorites for my husband, kids and our respective family get-togethers.  I thought I could live with that.  I’m struggling.  I wonder why I’m struggling.  None of us really needs the extra calories and everyone gets plenty of goodies from friends, right?  In the midst of my wrestling of feeling like this year’s baking would be less, far less, than “perfect”, the thought hit me:  this is a PRIDE issue.  I like being the “cookie lady”.  I want people to look forward to the “Wedel Cookie Basket” that they get every year. I have turned my yearly baking bonanza from an act of fun and tradition to part of my value as a person. How did that happen?  It’s my AND!

Are we less of a person because we don’t have a perfectly decorated tree? Does it mean we like people less because we didn’t have the funds or time to find or make that one perfect gift for them?  Does a less than perfectly turned out Christmas feast mean we just don’t care?  Will Christmas be less than perfect if we don’t get our “ands”?  I suppose that is up to us.   Because of our circumstances, my focus has had to turn from all my “ands” to the one thing that I know truly makes for a “perfect” Christmas.  It has little to do with everything looking right.  Nothing to do with how much money I spend or how many cookies I can bake. It has everything to do with relationship, the one common thread in my Facebook friend’s answers, though not the relationship of family which everyone thinks of first.  It has to do with my relationship with the Perfect Savior: the One whose birth Christmas is supposed to celebrate. With my attention turned to Him, the rest of the “ands” just don’t seem as important. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the “ands” or the family traditions or anything else that is special to you at Christmas. I just realized this year that all of those things had been distracting me from what should have been MOST important. Do I still wish for them? Sure! But because of my hope in Him I know that the “ands” will come again someday and that whether I have them or not my Christmas will be “perfect.”

At the end of the movie the main character stands on his lawn watching his plastic Santa flying through the air after one final large explosion while listening to his family celebrating happily in his nearly destroyed house and he says, “I did it!”  Meaning that even though things did not go as planned, he felt he had the “perfect” Christmas.  My goal this year is to stand on my lawn Christmas night (Nebraska weather permitting of course) and say, “God, YOU did it!!”


8 responses to “Christmas Vacation?

  1. javaj240 says:

    Well said. No wonder the newpaper published it.

  2. momshieb says:

    Beautiful! I need to print it and put in on my fridge for the next month….!

    • wedelmom says:

      Why thank you. I’ve never been “fridge worthy” before. (Well….except for my mother’s fridge but she doesn’t count.) I feel honored that you’d even think that.

  3. A great post!!! Love it!!

  4. Perfectly applicable one year later. Awesome.

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