Christmas is over. The floor is covered in wrapping paper. Everyone is stuffed to their eyeballs with cookies and treats. Perhaps you are standing in line, the day after Christmas, at the store to return many of the gifts you had looked forward to receiving. Family and house guests have left and now…Christmas is finished….and you are left with a Christmas Hangover!
What is a Christmas Hangover? It is the feeling that comes as a result of unmet expectations. You think that Christmas is going to deliver all that it promises, but at the end of the day, you are feeling as empty as the opened and discarded boxes being carted off to the trash. There is so much build up to Christmas that it never meets up to all the expectations.
One day in 365 can never meet them all. Like the rest of life, nothing can satisfy all our expectations. In life, things will occasionally go wrong. Your kids will get dirty, make messes and make noise. On Christmas day, you will forget to buy batteries, thaw the turkey, or the oven may choose to break as you are preparing for your evening meal. Planes will be delayed, relatives will get tied up with other responsibilities, and dogs will jump on your favorite suit or Christmas dress with their muddy paws.
Not only will circumstances disappoint but also people can as well. Family will never meet all your expectations. Your family is a real family, not a TV family. There will be arguments and rivalries among siblings. Perhaps that perfect Kodak moment got ruined because the children squabbled and fought over their toys. People will smile and thank you for their gift, while you can detect their disappointment in their eyes. If your mom or mother-in-law has always criticized you, she still will.
Also, tis the season for stress. We run ourselves ragged with all the preparations and planning then after Christmas we deflate. We decompress.
What are we chasing after? What do we think and hope Christmas will bring? And as all the stress, that brought us up until Christmas lingers, we now have to pay off, throughout the year, all the purchases we made for this ONE day.
We get drunk with our spending. The average American spends around $800 on Christmas gifts. The credit card debt generated around the holidays is not paid off until the following July, and 25% of American consumers report that it takes them until October to finally pay off the Christmas debt. Christmas has become one giant consuming orgy and once it is done, we get a hangover.
I grabbed this excerpt from the book, Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. This book urges readers to escape the commercialism of the holiday season, to make it a “joyful, stress-free” time for the family. In a chapter entitled “The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas”, the authors write:
One concern voiced by most parents is that of shielding their children from the excesses of holiday commercialism. While adults can mute the TV when the ads get annoying, children are defenseless against the onslaught of ads. As early as the age of four or five, they can lose the ability to be delighted by the sights and sounds of Christmas, only to gain a two-month-long obsession with brand-name toys. Suddenly, all they seem to care about is how many presents they will be getting and how many days are left until they unwrap them.
The authors go on to recommend four things that children “really” want for Christmas:
1. A relaxed and loving time with the family.
2. Realistic expectations about gifts.
3. An evenly paced holiday season.
4. Reliable family traditions.
And although these principles discuss what children really want, I believe ultimately it is what even adults really want.
Christmas should be a time of joy and reflection. We should take more advantage of the advent season and give ourselves over to reflect on the arrival and implications of Christ’s birth. Advent has been a tradition in our home since our children were young and it allows us create and cultivate conversation with our children about the significance and importance of Christmas. Christmas is special because it ultimately points us elsewhere. It points us to the cross. It is often said that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. I believe that sentiment is misplaced.
“You” are the reason for the season. Jesus came because he was on a mission. A mission to seek and save the lost. Guard yourself from the Christmas Hangover next year by allowing yourself and your family to slow down, be simple, reflect and enjoy the celebration of our savior’s birth.