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Are you, like me, wondering what Christmas will be like this year?
A few days ago, The Washington Post published an article about how Christmas will not be as usual in 2020. Several leaders in Europe have already stated that family gatherings might not be happening and that Christmas markets are being canceled.
Christmas is a time of the year when people travel to visit family or enjoy the holiday. It’s also the occasion to have large family gatherings with several generations getting together. Due to the current situation, none of those will be possible.
Are we heading towards a quarantine Christmas? What will it look like? With no events, markets, or any usual Christmas activities, how can we keep the spirit of Christmas alive and magical anyway?
To Save Christmas We Have To Imagine A Different Holiday
There is a solution that seems quite simple: if we cannot celebrate Christmas the way we usually do, let’s celebrate it in a different way. Different doesn’t mean worse, it only means different. Let’s break Christmas down to its essential ingredients. Then, like any recipe, you can get creative as long as you keep those basic ingredients!
Just think about all the different ways we celebrate Christmas around the world!
By tradition, Christmas celebrates hope. When it was a pagan celebration, the hope was for the return of the sun and the end of the winter. When it became Christian and we started to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the 4th century, Christmas became a celebration of love too. And because the world shifted from communities to families over the years, it is now a family celebration.
The essential values of Christmas are hope, love, and family. If you add sharing and generosity, as those are strong Christian values, you’ve got the ingredients for a beautiful Christmas.
Our Expectations Vs Reality
What we all love during the holiday season is the feeling of magic in the air. No matter where you go, there are lights and colors, music, and beautiful fragrances. In a Christmas market, the mall, or in the street, you hear bells and you see smiles on people’s faces.
But this year, we’ll have to create another kind of Christmas, more intimate, just one household. I don’t know what traditions you have? Maybe you like to:
- go as a family to the Christmas market,
- drink hot chocolate,
- listen to a choral.
- roam the big mall,
- enjoy the Christmas lights, music, and people,
- invite your whole family and have colorful and joyful meals.
Some might decide to duck their head and wait for the season to pass. Or to move Christmas to next Summer, as a Belgian doctor suggested. But most of us have kids, who are really looking forward to the holiday season and who would be too disappointed if we were to cancel the celebrations. This year has been tough enough for most of us, we don’t need to lose Christmas on top!
So let’s rethink Christmas, let’s imagine a different holiday where everyone will get their share of magic, love, hope, and happiness.
How Different Will A Pandemic Christmas Be?
We might be tempted to compare our 2020 Christmas with the ones we had before. But, I read the other day that comparison is the best way to ruin one’s life. Because memories are not objective. Alan R. Hirsch, a neuropsychiatric from Chicago, explains that nostalgia is “not a true recreation of the past, but rather a combination of many different memories, all integrated together, and in the process, all negative emotions filtered out“.
Our nostalgia for a specific Christmas experience is a mix of good memories and positive feelings pile up together years after years. As a consequence, comparing can only make us feel miserable as one lukewarm celebration cannot beat 30 years of nostalgic memories.
Our actions shouldn’t be towards trying to get back something from yesterday but to create a new today where we can thrive. This might prove difficult, as we live in a culture in which we compare everything (the 50 best 2020 movies, the 10 best football player, the best restaurants on TripAdvisor, and the best Christmas present for this season!), and rate everything (from our Uber driver to our hotel room).
One thing you can let go of already if you want a beautiful 2020 Christmas, no matter the circumstances is comparison. Do not try and compare this year’s Christmas with previous ones as nostalgia isn’t a fair guide.
And if you want to be really enjoying your holiday season, try not to compare yourself with others either! Take this chance to affirm your identity and autonomy. Again, not easy, especially in the usual Christmas consumerism frenzy.
Make The Best Out Of Christmas, Don’t Buy The Best
Who ends up after Christmas with empty pockets and a desperate-looking bank account? Marketers have understood long ago that buying is an emotional thing. And guess what? Christmas is very emotional! So all you have to do is to sprinkle a little bit of Christmas in your ads to make people want to buy.
What you really want to buy is the happiness, the love, and the sharing that is showcased in the ad, not the actual product, but our brains are made so that we think both are the same. A warm atmosphere, a fire, a richly decorated tree, children in pajamas, lots of presents, it’s a well marketed Christmas!
We associate Christmas with joy and wonder, and marketers use that too. It’s not only them. Movie-makers use the same strategies, and as we watch more and more movies with the same settings it becomes a cultural tradition.
Did you know that 35% of the sales revenue for toy companies are made during Christmas? How many of those toys will end up in the trash or deep in a closet in the following months? Offering presents is a beautiful thing and sharing the happiness of surprises and gifts is wonderful. But who said it had to be meaningless manufactured gifts?
You can make your very own Christmas, and it doesn’t need to look one bit like a Christmas movie on Netflix. Think of what is important for you and how you can turn it into a home-made project with your children.
Do you want to make the best out of your 2020 Christmas? You can join our “Beautiful XMas Challenge” and create your own magic in just 10 days!
The Roots Of Christmas Is Where The Magic Lies
Earlier I spoke of the values of Christmas: hope, love, generosity, and sharing. There are also some ingredients that make Christmas special to us: family, lights, decorations, presents, and sharing.
That doesn’t sound unreachable, does it? I’d say it sounds definitely inviting!
In December 2014, we were in Thailand in our motor-home. It was the first Christmas we truly celebrated in our 6 years trip. It was a challenge, celebrating Christmas in a Buddhist tropical country. We were in Khao Lak, on a beach. There were coconut trees for the shade, the sea was warm and inviting, the sun shining and it definitely didn’t feel like Christmas to a little Swiss family used to the snow, the biting cold air and the long dark nights. So I looked into my heart, and there I found what I needed for a meaningful Christmas. I found candles and Raoul started a wood fire. I hanged the decorations we made with the kids. Just some paper decorations, but they were so proud of them. We found some special food that day at the market and decided to grill on the fire. For the last weeks I’d been reading Christmas tales to the children and no matter the setting, they were fully immersed in the Christmas atmosphere. I told them the story of the celebration of the sun in the old days and of the birth of Jesus. We ate and sat by the fire together, drinking warm tea with honey, sharing small presents that we chose with a lot of care (not much room to spare in a motor-home!).
Years after, we celebrated Christmas in Bali, where we built a Christmas tree with bamboo and decorated it with origamis, as our neighbor was Japanese and rocked at making those. Then, we celebrated Christmas in the North of Florida where the kids painted giant shells and hanged them to a tree. We celebrated one in the mountain of Mexico with rock-climbers and it was an unexpectedly crowded Christmas.
Christmas isn’t about how much you spend or how big you Christmas tree is. Christmas is about the traditions and values you choose to celebrate with your family. And once you remember that Christmas is all about love and sharing, you realize that you don’t need much to make it beautiful.
What Is Christmas Anyway?
Way before Christianity, an early form of Christmas was celebrated throughout Europe. At the end of December was a feast dedicated to the renewal of the sun. Indeed, the winter solstice is on the 21st of December and after that date, the days start to grow longer again. And trust me, if you were living a European winter in ancient times, that was definitely something to celebrate!
In those times, the feast was named Yule, which means wheel in old Norse. You may recognize some dates on the pagan calendar, like Halloween. Yule was the celebration of a renewal, but before the sun starts to rise again, there is a break. On solstices, the axe of the Earth arrives to its maximum and starts again the other way. Yule is in between and this idea of a break was kept by the early Christians as the Christmas Truce. Yule is the victory of light over darkness. And we can still find those elements nowadays, Christmas being a feast of lights, candles and fires. The date was perfect for the birth of Jesus, who brought a renewal of light into the world.
Around the 2nd century, the Christian church started to look for Jesus’ birth date and around the year 300, Rome decided on the 25th of December. It was quite common to convert pagan feasts to Christian holidays, as it was easier to convert people that way. Jesus is called the light of Justice in the Bible and it worked well with the feast of lights of the pagans. Christmas as a Christian celebration is celebrated in churches since the 4th century. It spread across Europe with Christianity, starting from Rome. The presents appeared around the XIXe Century as a symbol of the Three Kings’ gifts to Jesus.
For Christians, Christmas (Christ’s Mass) is the celebration of Jesus Christ. It is a celebration of the love of God who gave his son Jesus to the world. Aside from the trees, gifts and decorations, Christmas is a time of reflection and meditation around faith. The message of Jesus is one of love and forgiveness, and I like to speak and read texts about him with the children. The Christmas story appears in Luke 2:4-19 , and the kids love it because they recognize so many symbols from the Bible in our Christmas: the Three Kings, the Star of Bethlehem, the manger, the cattle and donkeys,…
Christmas is a beautiful of a feast that has been celebrated since the dawn of time, evolving, but true to itself, and offering hope for warmer days.
Make The Best Out Of Your Pandemic Christmas
As you can see, Christmas is way older than malls, present’s lists and Santa Claus. It’s even older than Jesus! But what we can gather from this his story, is how people, from ancestral times to this day, have celebrated together Hope and Light. And no matter your religion or your beliefs, or that you think the light is the sun or Jesus or both, what matters here is that there is a special energy during Christmas. Everything seems possible, men and women have believed so for thousands of years. And we definitely could use some positive energy this winter!
You can bring light and hope, warmth and love in your house in so many ways. I love to remind myself what Christmas is about and how I can convey its spirit to my family. It is so easy to get sidetracked by cheap decorations, fake trees and useless presents when we can do the same with care and meaning.
Use Christmas To Open Your House To Diversity
Not so long ago I wrote a post about racism and how teaching diversity was a key to raise non-racist children. Doesn’t Christmas feel like the perfect occasion?
By discovering how other countries and cultures celebrate Christmas, you can teach so many things to your children. Beyond the obvious geographical opportunity, you can study history and show your children how one tradition has evolved differently according to its culture and people. Christmas is something children relate to naturally, it is part of their life since they were born, hence it will be easier to call to their empathy and to open their mind and heart to other cultures using that opportunity.
In Iceland, there are 13 days of celebration before Christmas, during which they are visited every night by Yule Lads, mischievous prankster who come down from the mountains. You will be visited by Spoon-Licker, Gully Gawk or Candle-Stealer. Nowadays they’ve become less scary and even bring little presents to good kids who leave their shoes by the window every night.
In Italy, people love Nativity scenes and Naples has a tradition going back as far as 1025. Now every family has one at home but giant ones can be admired in churches. Another tradition there is that on Christmas Eve no meat or dairy is eaten. People have a light meal of fish and go to the Midnight Mass service. When they return, they eat a slice of Panettone, a delicious fluffy bread with dried fruits.
In Burkina Faso, like in several Christian countries, Christmas is celebrated both at home and in churches. Children use clay, straw and water to symbolise cribs, those are showcased outside their home. Christians prepare a big feast for Christmas and invite all their neighbors, may they be Muslims or Christians. In the same way, on big Muslim feasts, the Christians enjoy their neighbor’s food.
There are as many Christmas traditions and customs as they are countries and cultures. Why not let some of them enter your house and open your children’s minds?
The Roots Of Christmas Are: Celebration And Sharing
Beyond the pagan winter solstice or the Christian nativity, there is a desire to celebrate together, to share a moment of love and hope. What used to be village and community feasts might have become more like family gatherings, but it doesn’t change the meaning behind the celebration.
Another way to make the best out of your pandemic Christmas is to slow down, and take the time to do things together. Since we are not supposed to gather in large groups, nor to go to markets and holiday events, or even to roam malls, we have plenty of time!
Do not downgrade Christmas this year because of the pandemic: upgrade it! Bring more meaning into it, take the time to explain the different traditions and stories to your children, cook together, spend quality time during the holiday and show them that the Christmas spirit is stronger than that pesky virus.
We can give our children amazing memories and long-lasting values if only we would take the time and care to make it meaningful.
If you love the idea but feel a bit overwhelmed, why not join our 10 days challenge and get everything you need from mindset to practical tips for a memorable Christmas?
Thanks for reading this article! As always, I hope it gave you some line of thoughts to explore as well as ideas to act and create a positive change in your life.
Don’t let the inspiration fades and take action right away:
I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment and don’t judge yourself harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
See you next week for another exciting article!
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