Stop Surviving the Holidays: Confessions of a Slightly Cynical, A-Type, Holiday Control Freak

I spent YEARS trying to make the holiday perfect. Whatever that means.

I had my own ideas about what the holidays should be like, and by gosh by golly you better step in line or get the holly jolly out of my way.

In short, I was a complete lunatic between November 1st and January 1st. I pushed and pulled friends, family, my schedule and my wallet in attempt to give thanks, deck the halls, make the season bright, and ring in the new year.


Call me crazy, but I think about holding 1/6th of the entire year hostage to the ever elusive quest for perfection is, well, CRAZY.

I say it’s time to stop surviving the holidays and start enjoying them again.

Now before all you A-types, say “No, no, no. I just like to be organized.” Let me stop you right there. As a fellow A-type, I have your number. Making other people feel “managed” in an attempt to adhere to OUR schedule and expectations only stresses them out and sucks the joy right out of their holiday. And let’s be honest, will others ever really live up to our unreasonable expectations of efficiency and planning anyway?

Answer: No. And why should they?

So pause let’s all pause and do a gut check. Is this fill-in-the-blank thing that just HAS to be done, purchased or experienced really about the joy of others, or is it about US?

Ouch. Are reality checks annoying or what?

Now, what if you find yourself on the other side of things? In other words, “The holidays are a pain in my butterscotch ripple, so don’t talk to me until January.” Been there, done that too.


Whelp. I'm toast. Do not be in my blast radius when I'm untangling the Christmas lights I carefully wrapped last year. 

If you’ve had a lot of disappointing holidays, it’s easy to go the Scrooge route. I get it. Family can be annoying, upsetting and insensitive. (Can I get an “amen” Clark W. Griswold?)

Holiday shoppers treat the front doors of Wal-Mart like they are the last chopper out of Saigon. (Seriously, are people really fighting to get IN to Wal-Mart?) The Hallmark Channel is in an annual competition to “out cheese” themselves from last year.

Yeah, I said it. How many stories about a person who’s given up on Christmas until the perfect person turns it all around for them must we all be subjected to? I am totally outnumbered in this area. Everyone likes Hallmark but me.

Bottom line, the hassle, expense, commercialism, and “Christmas spirit in your face” is enough to make anyone want to scream. But consider this, being cynical during the holidays may also suck the joy out of it for others who really enjoy it.

Dreading facing the family this holiday?

Consider volunteering at a homeless shelter or visiting orphans. Nothing will set you straight like visiting with people who would give anything to be a part of your “dysfunctional” family. At least there is food to fight over and presents.

Do you have the Black Friday blues? Let’s all be glad that what we Americans call a “bad economy” still makes us some of the richest people in the world. If you’re biggest problem is worrying about missing out on the best deal on the latest designer handbag or electronic device, consider that many in the third world, and right down the street, don’t know where their kid’s next meal is coming from.

Tired of low production Christmas movies? (Yeah, me too.) However, let’s take a minute to thank God that we live in a country where we can celebrate Christmas and worship our God without fear of persecution.

I’m not trying to bum you out, lecture or sound self-righteous. I need to hear all this too. I’m just trying to shed some perspective on a season that has spun out of control. I felt personally convicted about my attitude (and lack of gratitude) this week as I waffled from micromanaging the holidays to throwing my hands up in the air.

One day I asked myself, where does this stress come from?

As much as I want to blame the advertising industry, Wal-Mart, America’s love affair with capitalism, the Hallmark Channel and family stress, the responsibility for the joy we take and make this season lies squarely on OUR shoulders. That is not to say that we must shoulder an unreasonable burden to make the holidays perfect. I can only control how I choose to respond to the season. And the same goes for you. That means that we must each take personal responsibility for whether we allow ourselves to be over-spent, over-stressed, over-scheduled and overwhelmed this year.

You see, we don’t have to lower our expectations of the holidays in order to enjoy them, we just need a change of heart. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about after all? (Is that the Hallmark Channel calling?)

I wish each of you a wonderful and peaceful holiday season, and I pray that the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) finds its way into your heart and right into the middle of your gatherings this year.


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