I am always amazed how the anticipation of Christmas grows and grows in intensity, then, the moment the date has passed, it ends immediately, like a popped balloon, and I’m left with a feeling of shock and an immediate pressure to pick up the pieces.
There’s no decrescendo, no gentle descent back into normal. On the twenty-sixth, people are pulling down decorations, tearing down the tree. The radio stations go back to their regular cycle of music, stores start putting out Valentine’s Day stuff.
We live in a move-on kind of culture, don’t we? Where we anticipate and look forward to something, then once it’s arrived, we’re over it.
I can’t do that with Christmas. I love it too fiercely, I anticipate it too greatly to accept that it’s over with such immediacy and finality.
Especially when our actual Christmas wasn’t as calm or bright as I had hoped.
Our Christmas Day
Christmas Eve night was supposed to go like this: children falling asleep on the way home from the Christmas Eve service, gently putting them to bed with a kiss on the forehead, snuggling downstairs with a cup of sparkling cider with my husband and watching a Christmas movie, perhaps even falling asleep in each others’ arms.
Then, Christmas Day was to be a day of joy. I’d wake up early and come downstairs to read my Advent book and work on my cross stitch project while listening to Christmas tunes, then greet my children with huge smiles as they came downstairs, wishing them a “Merry Christmas!” and snuggle with them before Daddy woke up. Then, we’d have a beautiful and delicious breakfast of homemade quiche, bacon, fruit, and pumpkin cinnamon rolls, before opening our gifts to each other with excitement and gratitude. We’d go for a walk in the crisp, Christmas air, and read Christmas stories before the littles would take a nap, and Kevin and I could smile at each other, since we’re still so-in-love, you know. We’d continue our tradition of hosting our parents for the evening, and the day would end in fun.
Well. Here’s how it went down.
Neither kid fell asleep on the way home from the service. They had each fallen asleep on the way there instead, meaning they were perfectly awake when we pulled in at home at about 8:45pm. The house was a wreck from rushing around all day, trying to get everything done, and Kevin dutifully set to cleaning up while I tried to nurse Lucy and calm the kids down. Lucy kept pulling off and on, and doing yoga-moves while breastfeeding, making it particularly difficult, and Levi refused to pick up the books I asked him 1,304 times to pick up, crying and insisting it was “too hard.” Finally, he did, but then began demanding other things I couldn’t fulfill because I was trying to get Lucy to sleep. After about 20 minutes of this, especially after wistfully thinking of the “date night in” Kevin and I were supposed to have, I finally snapped, and yelled at Levi, and I told Lucy she was being (I’m not proud of this) “a pain in the ass.” I began to calm down and apologized to both, tears streaming down my face, so annoyed. Levi finally stopped crying, and we sat down on the couch, yoga-Lucy still going at it.
It was 10:00pm when Kevin came in, looking ticked. Levi asked if we could watch a show together through snuffles, and Kevin abruptly said, “No, you didn’t listen to Mama.” A new series of wails erupted, and I, frustrated that the long-awaited moment of peace was just disrupted, reprimanded Kevin who then, became increasingly mad with me, because he was trying to defend me after hearing me yelling at the kids minutes before. “Why would we reward that behavior?” he asked.
We ended up all four in bed, Kevin and I bookending the kids, arguing quietly. No snuggling. No sparking cider. No peace and quiet. No alone time. My favorite night of the whole year was destroyed.
The next morning wasn’t tons better. After a restless night, I woke up with a severe headache and clogged milk duct. Breakfast took forever to make, and we sat down to bacon and cinnamon rolls first because the quiche was an hour in and still not done. The opening of gifts went ok, except we all were kind of grumpy. The kids, still exhausted and overwhelmed from a busy weekend, cried many times because they were not happy with the other playing with the gifts. Levi bit Lucy so hard it left marks in her arm. I cried a lot, too.
There was no brisk afternoon walk. We didn’t read the Christmas story. We spent the day preparing food, opening gifts, managing emotions, and watching Christmas baking shows because we were all pretty spent. Then, we all took a nap. And things got better after that. Having our parents over was fun, and the day ended on a good note, but the Christmas Event, as a whole, was not remotely what I had hoped for. I think it was because I spent the majority of the day in internal conflict, a tug-of-war between feeling sad that things weren’t going to my expectations and letting go of those expectations while trying to remain positive.
Thanks to practicing Advent, our Christmas season was fun and overall way more intentional than other years, but the day itself wasn’t that great, if I’m honest.
It’s Over. Kind of.
On December 26th, Kevin went back to work. The kids and I went outside and played in the fresh air for a good, long time. We baked and played and visited with friends and ate and made merry. It didn’t feel like Christmas anymore, but the mood sure did.
And we will keep riding this wave out for the next few days. I am still playing holiday music when I come down in the mornings. I still revel in the twinkle lights, and will all winter (I take down Christmas decor, but leave winter decor and lights up throughout the darkest season). The kids can keep watching The Snowy Day in cozy Christmas pajamas. We will read “Bear Stays Up for Christmas” and our other favorite Christmas and winter books, and I will keep doing projects with Levi from The Peaceful Press’s amazing Christmas guide. Because, if I’m honest, I’m not ready for it to be over yet.
So here’s to extending Christmas, just a little. To letting this season end in a gentle waning instead of snuffing it out. Eventually, this too, shall pass, but for now, I want to hold onto the coziness, the joy, the light a little longer.
Peace, joy, and love, my friends.