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3 Ways to Embrace an Imperfect Christmas

I recently listened to a podcast titled “You Are Not Failing Christmas,” and while I enjoyed many parts of it, I especially liked the end.

“December isn’t a season of beauty and depth and connection that’s been screwed up by a pandemic – it’s screwed up every year. It disappoints us in one way or another every year…. The meaning of Christmas is not about being perfect. Every piece of the story, when you trace it back, is about the opposite of being perfect. It’s about something more beautiful and more profound and decidedly less photogenic. To be human is to be part of the greatest story of learning, and changing, and enduring, and making do. And you, with your imperfect holiday, you fit right into that story.” – Liz James

That hit home for me because I feel like many of us try so hard to live up to some Christmas ideal that will never be a reality, and because it’s unattainable, every year we’re disappointed.

So this year, I suggest letting go of that ideal and embracing the idea of an imperfect Christmas (or whatever holiday you might be celebrating). And here are three ways of doing that.

No Comparisons

The first applies to the holiday, but it can also apply year-round. Don’t compare your celebration (or even lack of celebration) with someone else. As Liz James reminded me in the podcast: “[Forget] right now about the glued cranberry wreath that you saw in Martha Stewart’s Pinterest because that is not the real spirit of Christmas – that is the real spirit of Martha Stewart.“

Instead, focus on what this time of year means to you. For lots of us, it’s about family, and that’s tricky because you might not be able to see your family this year, or at least not in person. But this also opens the door to being more creative and finding new ways of doing things.

For example, I often play Christmas carols on my flute on Christmas afternoon for my family, but that’s not happening this year. Instead, I’ve recorded myself playing Christmas songs, and I’ll share the video with family and friends. And this way, more people will get to listen.

You could also do video calls, make a nice card, drop off goodies at someone’s door, or whatever else you can think of.

Or maybe you want to celebrate that you don’t have to be with family this year. I’m secretly relieved that I don’t have to think about whether or not to go to the gathering on my mom’s side of the family. If you fall into that category, you might just enjoy staying home and not doing much of anything, and that’s perfectly okay.

The key is, decide what matters to you and go with that instead of trying to live up to someone else’s vision.

Don’t Stress About Dust

If you’re not having guests over, you might not be as worried about how clean your house is, but maybe you still feel pressure to have everything looking tidy and shiny.

If so, the podcast also reminded me that in the Christmas story, a “refugee family [is] huddled in a barn that was all animal poop and noise when they arrived and was probably not improved in smell or looks by hosting an impromptu childbirth without running water….”

Of course, this isn’t how you typically see the nativity scene, but the podcast makes a good point – it probably wasn’t that clean, something I’ve thought more about after watching many episodes of Call the Midwife. All of this helps me relax about the dust and cat fur tumbleweeds roaming around my floors. Hopefully, it helps you do the same.

Eat What You Want

And finally, let yourself eat what you want!

If you don’t like the traditional foods for the holiday, you don’t have to eat them. If you’re not getting together with extended family, you don’t have to worry about making something that everyone will (hopefully) like, or choking down bites of someone else’s dish that you don’t care for because you don’t want to offend them.

So just eat what you want. If that’s a feast, great – I hope you enjoy it! If it’s a bowl of cereal, I hope you enjoy that, too. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just something you know you’ll like.

Wishing You Happy and Imperfect Holidays

Whatever holiday you might be celebrating this week, or if you’re not celebrating any, I hope you can let go of ideas of perfection. Those ideas are unrealistic at any time, but this year especially, you’re not going to be able to reach them.

So instead of stressing about something you know you can’t do, take a deep breath, stop comparing, don’t spend more time cleaning than you want to, and enjoy some favorite foods. And I hope you can celebrate the fact that being imperfect fits right into the spirit of the holidays.


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