I remember the year I tried to do it all. I played the piano at church for all the Advent and Christmas services. I directed the Sunday School Christmas pageant. I hosted the dessert night for the women of our church. Family members from all over the country spent days and nights at our home for Christmas and New Year’s Day. I tried to enjoy every festive event but ended up feeling like a blow-up snowman without any air, lying limp on the front lawn.
With the holiday season upon us, we may easily overextend ourselves. We remember the fun activities we did as kids and try to make each one into a tradition for our own family. We see adorable ideas on Pinterest and Instagram and want to try them all. And even though we may deny it, we might have a secret desire to impress the neighborhood with our outdoor light display or get a hundred likes on the social media post of our Christmas tree.
But will those things create a Christmas to remember? Or will they create a holiday season we try hard to forget when it’s over?
If we try to do everything, we may find ourselves singing the blues—not “Joy to the World.”
So, let’s examine five reasons you don’t have to do it all this holiday season:
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/FTiare
1. Being Overwhelmed Doesn't Look Good on Anyone
The Christmas I tried to do it all, I ended up having a meltdown right before the Sunday School pageant. Thankfully, I fell apart at home and could pull myself together in time for the performance, so the kids and their families didn’t have to wonder how the show would go on. But the tears and anxiety clearly didn’t make me more attractive. And all that season, my patience was razor-thin. I snapped at my husband and yelled at my kids. My face probably showed the angst that simmered in my soul.
Instead of trying to do it all: Remember to schedule rest for yourself and your family. Block out at least one evening each week in December to stay home, relax, and reconnect with your family. Make an effort to eat healthy meals whenever possible. And instead of staying up late every night to finish shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, and writing Christmas cards, go to bed early once in a while.
2. No One Will Grade You on Your Christmas Tree
Or light display. Or fireplace mantle décor. In this era of home makeover shows and seemingly unlimited Pinterest ideas, we may feel pressure to decorate our homes in the most elaborate fashion we can afford. So we spend days hooking up lights and untangling ornaments. We find irresistibly cute craft projects online and stay up late finishing them.
But even if people appreciate your efforts with a heart emoji or thumbs up on social media, is it worth your peace or sanity? Even if you win the neighborhood light contest, can you justify the cost of a doubled electric bill and your frazzled nerves?
Instead of trying to do it all: Decide if you want to decorate. Can you find a better use of your time and money? If you do want to decorate, how can you simplify? Determine which ornaments and decorations mean the most to you. You might turn the decorating chore into a meaningful time with friends by hosting a potluck tree-trimming party. Or, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, have the kids hang a couple of ornaments on the tree each day as you talk about the meaning of the manger or the star.
3. No One Will Judge You on Your Christmas Cookies
Or glazed ham. Or cornbread stuffing. As a newlywed, I wanted to prove to my guests that I could actually cook and took on overly ambitious menus meant to impress my guests. But I ended up spending way too much time in the kitchen and feeling stressed when guests arrived. I couldn’t truly engage with my friends and family because I was preoccupied with the preparation and timing of seven elaborate dishes.
Instead of trying to do it all: Simplify. Pick your favorite dishes and include those in your holiday celebrations, but pare down wherever possible. If you love making cut-out sugar cookies, schedule time for baking, but perhaps reduce the number of cookies you bake or join forces with a friend to make the cookie-making chore a time of connection. Ask guests to bring a dish to a gathering or ask a few people who love to cook to come early on the big day and assign individuals to peel potatoes or snap beans. Prioritize connecting with people instead of impressing them.
4. “Doing It All” Won’t Ensure the Perfect Holiday
In fact, trying to fit everything in will probably guarantee a miserable Christmas season. By the time you’ve attended the church Christmas concert, your town’s holiday parade, a performance of A Christmas Carol, the annual Nutcracker ballet, the neighborhood cookie exchange, the book club potluck, the youth group caroling outing, and your kid’s piano recital, you will most likely experience burnout. Your Christmas spirit may dissolve into Christmas survival.
Instead of trying to do it all: Begin by deciding what truly matters this season. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas and choose activities that reflect the joy of Jesus’ birth. Sit down before the December chaos begins and plan how you will spend your precious hours and minutes. Write down all the events and parties you need to attend: your child’s school play, your mom’s Christmas dinner. Write these in your calendar as non-negotiables. Then make a list of other things you’d like to do. Ask family members what Christmas activities they enjoy.
Next, trim your long list. You could rate each activity with a star rating. Which activities earn five stars? Which get a mediocre rating? Choose only the best. Or you could have everyone in the family vote for their three favorites and decide to do only the winners. Write everything in the calendar (including at least one evening a week at home), so you can easily see where you might end up overscheduling.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Lordn
5. Jesus Has Already Done It All
I’ll admit I am a doer and often work as it all depends on me. I want to amaze my guests and wow my neighbors. Sometimes I even try to prove myself to Jesus.
But then the Holy Spirit reminds me that I don’t need to do anything to impress Jesus. I don’t need to demonstrate my worthiness to God because Jesus did everything needed to make me whole and perfect in the Father’s eyes.
It all started in Bethlehem when Jesus came as a tiny baby, born to a peasant couple. He humbled Himself enough to lie in a bed of scratchy straw and endure dirty diapers so that He could redeem us. He grew up in Nazareth, perfectly obeying God’s law because He knew we couldn’t. He took all our failures, sins, and bumbling attempts to prove ourselves in His body on the cross because He loved us. He died a criminal’s death but rose victorious three days later. Jesus did it all—because we can’t.
Instead of trying to do it all: Rejoice that Jesus has already done everything necessary for a beautiful Christmas. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, release the need to have a picture-perfect holiday season. Place all your plans in the hands of Jesus. Then, as you listen to the reading of the Christmas story, picture yourself worshiping at the manger. See the tiny Christ child who came to earth to do it all—for you.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (John 1:14,16)
Originally published Thursday, 17 November 2022.