In search of a simpler, less perfect kind of Christmas…

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You can’t fail to be caught up in the Christmas build up, if you walk through any city centre right now.

All of the shops are just buzzing with activity; the Christmas lights, the pop up Christmas markets, the festive window displays and the endless online sales promotions.

It’s literally a three month assault on all the senses, and it seems as if the marketing gets bolder, the queues longer, the shelves fuller, and the pavements busier with every passing year.

Is it really any wonder that the reality never quite lives up to all the pre-Christmas build up and hype?

Last year, in the UK alone, we racked up an incredible £1.5 billion in credit card and overdraft debts as a nation in the run up to Christmas to help us pay for even just the illusion of a ‘perfect’ Christmas!

Have you noticed how nowadays, as well as having an almighty long list of things that we need to get done; gifts to shop for, parties to plan, presents to wrap, homes to decorate, outings to organise, meals to cook, and family members to host – we also seem to have added in the extra pressure of needing to make every moment feel sparkly and magical and picture perfect, like it’s just been lifted straight from the latest John Lewis Christmas ad.

Or am I the only one who feels this way??

Yet in the midst of all this noise and busyness and distraction and hustle and desire to make every moment as Instagramable as possible, for me these words of Jesus cut right to the very heart of the matter:

‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’ (Mark 8: 36)

I love this verse because it’s reminding me right now that there’s also another way to live.

Because it doesn’t matter how pretty your house looks, how happy your family appears from the outside, or how much cool stuff you give or receive or do this Christmas, if your soul is dying on the inside… dying because you’re working too hard, feeling stressed out, and isolated from your love ones, running on emotionally empty, or getting into debt to pay for it all.

And the truth is that all of those beautiful things that you’ve always wanted – or whatever represents ‘gaining the whole world’ to you right now  – it’s all completely and utterly meaningless, if it costs you your soul in the process.  That is always too high a price to pay…

And I am writing this blog because I don’t want to buy into some marketer’s illusive ideas of what ‘the perfect Christmas’ looks like this year, and because I don’t want to live as if my soul is expendible in this festive season either.

No, ‘perfect’ is out and ‘good enough’ will do just fine for me, if it means I also come away from it with the health of my soul rather than feeling burnt out, frazzled or disappointed this December.

And please hear me when I say that I absolutely don’t want to come across as some kind of Christmas scrooge in writing this either. Christmas is still one of my very favourite times of the year!! It’s just that this year I want to approach it slightly differently.

And I know that I need to get more proactive and intentional if I am to choose to live from the values that I really believe in during this season, rather than just get swept along by the hype.

Values like: giving over consuming; gratitude over desire; people over material things; and joy over striving for an unattainable perfection.

So I have come up with a few Christmas ‘soul-saver’ ideas to help:

1. Choosing a ‘girls night in’ with a take away and board games instead of paying for an expensive evening out with my friends, or putting any added pressure on someone to cook

2. Deciding to only buy the kids in our extended family presents this year, then investing the money we save by buying fewer gifts into some family days out where we can share quality time together instead.

3. Agreeing a maximum gift budget between me and my spouse … and actually sticking to it too!

4. Taking some bags of old clothes and toys down to a local charity shop or clothes bank where it can be recycled or shared with other families who have less.

5. Donating some food parcels to a foodbank (you can even do this at many local supermarkets), and/or donating some warm clothes to a homeless project.

6. Or better still, if your children are old enough, why not go down there and volunteer your time for a few hours together as a family too?

7. Instead of doing an office Secret Santa where everyone spends £10 on tat, why not agree to donate the amount to a good cause such as buying a goat for a village through  Christian Aid, or sourcing some ethical gifts that benefit others at the same time as well?

8. Choosing to sometimes say no to the umpteenth Christmas function of the season, and spend more quality time with my most important people instead.

9. Keeping well-stocked up on mulled wine, mince pies, and paper plates, so that I can opportunistically invite friends and neighbours around on a whim, without too much effort, planning or preparation.

10. Being willing to let some of the small stuff slide for a few days … like laundry or clean sheets or freshly ironed clothes.

These are just a few very simple ideas I am choosing to help ensure the health of my soul (as well as my bank account!) this Christmas season.

And I appreciate that none of this thinking is particularly earth-shattering or new; but isn’t that exactly the point? Small, manageable adjustments and shifts of focus are almost always the most sustainable.

And as I am writing this, I wonder if any of this thinking resonates with others right now as well? And if so, how does ensuring the health of your soul look for you this Christmas time too?

If you have any other good ideas, please do share them as I’d love to know… !

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