Looking back I can’t think of a single Christmas that was ever the same as the one before. Having two sets of parents means four sets of grandparents and who knows how many aunts, uncles, cousins, and dogs. Each family has their own favorite side dishes, their own way of discovering full stockings on Christmas morning, real trees, fake trees, some drink, some don’t. Then if I was dating someone, their family gets thrown into the mix, and I may or may not be living out of state. I think you see my point. So, growing up when people would talk about their family traditions, I didn’t feel like I really had any.
I was recently challenged to put together a “joy list” for the holidays. Sitting down and concentrating on what made me happy during a time when it seems like everyone is going in different directions and quite a few people get a little too into the holiday “spirits” if you know what I mean. Plus with the kids now being in a similar situation as I was growing up, we want to make sure that despite (or perhaps in spite of) where they are for Christmas Day or who they get to spend time with that year, we make sure they can have a few things that will always be the same.
So pen to paper, I spent thirty minutes by the crackling fireplace doing nothing but creating my Joy List. Here’s what I realized as my top five:
#1 Wrapping presents while drinking hot tea
Yes, I am one of those strange people that prefers putting the gift in a box just so I can use wrapping paper instead of throwing it in a bag with some tissue. I know the paper gets thrown away. I know it only last 30 seconds in someone’s hands before getting torn to shreds. I know it’s a lot of work. However, there is something serene about taking the time to crease the corners, pick out some ribbon, and write the “to/from” label. Plus, I tend to get my shopping done weeks ahead, so my pretty packages generally sit under my tree close to two weeks!
#2 Playing games with my family
With such a massive family it’s nice to be intentional with our time when we do get together. Not that watching classics like White Christmas and Lord of the Rings – because any epic saga becomes a Christmas classic at Mom’s – isn’t fun, but being able to interact and talk with each other is so meaningful. Over the years there have been a few intense game moments like 2017’s Canasta-geddon, but for the majority of the time pulling out a deck of cards or a set of board games is full of laughter and joy.
#3 Sending Christmas cards while watching cheesy holiday movies
It’s so exciting to get snail mail! Who doesn’t love Christmas cards decorating garland in their house? My mom always sent out cards when I was younger. I loved putting stamps and return address labels on the envelopes even though there were probably a couple hundred. Yes, I’m serious. A. Couple. Hundred. Now I realize that free child labor and my bizarre zeal for all things school/office supplies was probably the only thing that kept her sending out that crazy number year after year, but none the less I still love it. Currently, it’s just me creating signature lines and writing addresses in a festive color, so I simultaneously take part in my guilty pleasure – watching cheesy Christmas movies. Not the classics, we watch those as a family. I mean the kind that makes your boyfriend’s eyes roll and your friends laugh.
#4 Getting a new Christmas dress
For years as an adult, I wore business professional attire five days a week. Then I’d put something similar on for church on Sunday. That’s dressing up, hair and make-up six days a week ya’ll! So you can imagine, I’ve got quite a few dresses and heels in that closet of mine. There were times growing up when getting a new dress to wear to the Christmas Eve service at church was one of maybe three new dresses we’d get all year. That being said, getting one, and doing the shopping that led to picking one out was special. It might be red or green. It might be shiny or sparkly. Some were even velvet. They were festive and probably the closest thing to princess-like we’d get wear all year. Even now, it’s still fun to pick out something a little more sparkly than what I’d wear to the office.
#5 Making wish lists
We grow up writing to Santa when we’re at school and then for some reason as we age, the fun of dreaming up your ideal presents fades away. I will typically have a few things I want on a dusty old Amazon list for the couple of people who have trouble thinking of what to get me, but it’s never as fun or memorable as it was to write to Santa. With the kiddos getting presents from so many people, it’s easy for them to get a lot of repetitive and similar things. This year we all sat down flipping through catalogs, pencils and notepads in hand, to write down our dream presents. They were so excited to be asked what they wanted and kept going back to the magazines throughout the next several days. The biggest surprise out of the activity was that they’d write down things they wanted to get us too. My heart may have melted a little.