Here’s my (non exhaustive) how-to list to simplify Christmas, and enjoy an evening with your people:
1. Choose a Christmas movie. Specifically, choose Elf because it is the very best one. Following that, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is also a winner.
2. Don’t stress about the dinner dishes. Don’t snap at the family for not helping with said dishes.
3. Dessert need not be extravagant—a simple rice pudding (coloured green because, Christmas) and vanilla ice cream is perfect (our movie night tradition). Or, vanilla ice-cream with Milo sprinkled on top, a la our childhoods, is also a cheap and easy option, and just as loved.
4. Don’t worry about washing your hair, just have the quickest shower you can so you can spend more time with aforementioned people.
5. Gaudy Christmas t-shirts, mugs and hats are optional, but recommended. Pjs non-negotiable.
6. Take the time to get your bean bag just the way you like it right away, so the rustling doesn’t disturb the movie-watching.
7. Get up when the kettle whistles—without being resentful. Yes, maybe you cooked the dinner and cleaned the kitchen and made the dessert so why should I have to make the tea as well?! Because you’re creating memories, and creating space, and sometimes that means you either a) roll up your sleeves and take a breath and get it done or b) ruin the moment with your resentment. I recommend option a. Serve your family well.
8. Settle in. Don’t forget to take stock. Notice the way your 13 year old son sits against your husband, the need for affection unhidden and unashamed. Take note of the fact that she’s brought out her comfort blanket that she’s had since she was a newborn, and refuses to give up even though she’s turning 12. Smile at the way the youngest eats her ice-cream, methodically, intentionally, letting her lips only remove the top layer on the spoon at a time.
9. Laugh out loud. Laugh in anticipation of the hilarity that you know is about to occur. Laugh at the one liners and the slap stick and then laugh at everyone else laughing. This can only occur if you’re as engaged in the movie as everyone else. Leave your phone in the bedroom.
10. Catch eyes with your loved one across the room, where he’s sitting with kids’ legs splayed over him and Christmas lights reflected in his eyes. Let that feeling swell until you feel like it’ll burst in your chest.
And that’s it. All you need is your people. Or your cat, it’ll work the same. The other night when my husband was on night shift, I watched You’ve Got Mail, with only the cat for company. I pretty much had the same swelling, heart-bursting gratitude.
All you need is to be present right there in that moment. All you need is to be grateful.
It’s easy to get caught up in it all: the consumerism, the having and the buying and the doing.
I have moments where I feel like I need to keep up with those Joneses, the ones with their styled living rooms and extravagant new decorations and Christmas trees. I scroll Facebook and it tells me I need the latest Nutribullet, and that dress she’s wearing from Sportsgirl.
I’m pulling out of the competition though, because when I’m comparing, no one wins anyway.
I know by now that the want for more is insatiable, and immeasurable.
This I can measure though, but it’s not measured in the same way as collected inanimate things.
This life I can measure with gratitude. This living room full of living, breathing, heart-swelling, life-giving folk who remind me that I don’t need the holidays or the new things or the clean floor (okay sometimes I really need the clean floor)—that all I really need is to find the place within me that says, Oh God, I am so grateful.
And that is enough.