Virtual Advent Tour: Do I Really Need a Perfect Christmas?

The Virtual Advent Tour has become an annual event among the book blogging community that I enjoy. Bloggers who wish to can sign up for a day in which they share their thoughts about Christmas. Today it’s my turn.

Ever since I read Perfect Christmas by Felicity Cloake I’ve been thinking about my own attempts to create perfect Christmases. I’m sure other parents fall into this trap, especially when our children are young. We want to recreate the magic we remember experiencing as children. You know what I mean – the idea that Santa will bring you a special gift, and there will be amazing, special foods, especially sugary treats.  And, everything will magically appear overnight.

Of course the reality is that “overnight” takes hours, days, even weeks of frantic activity. Yet, year after year I worked hard to make it be “perfect.” I have some stand-out memories from those efforts, such as the time I waited outside in the cold for a department store to open so I might get one of those rare cabbage patch dolls. Same thing with those Star Wars figures. Also, I’m not sure what drove me to bake eight to ten different kinds of Christmas cookies or to decorate every inch of our house.

Even though, every year on December 26th I felt one breath away from death, I continued to repeat that insanity. And then, a week before Christmas in 1981, it all changed. That was the year my appendix ruptured. I wasn’t home for Christmas. I was in the hospital for two weeks. I was so sick there was no way I could create my version of a perfect Christmas for my children. I had only purchased a few of their gifts, baked only two or three batches of cookies, and Christmas dinner was only in my head.

That year my children were 13, 10 and 8, none of them believed in Santa, but they still believed in the magic. As I discovered, they were old enough to learn and then teach me a valuable lesson: A very happy Christmas is one we all give to each other. It’s not just the mom who creates the perfect Christmas for the family. It’s actually a lot more fun if each person contributes something to make it magical. Each family member (including extended family) pitched in and created a beautiful Christmas for me in the hospital as well as for each other at home.

From that year on we scaled back on our overabundant Christmas celebrations. I learned we didn’t need ten batches of over-the-top cookies or a Christmas dinner that took me six hours to prepare. We tried to change the focus from selfish desires to thinking of others. We were quite happy to have quality gifts rather than every item on a long list.

It wasn’t easy to make those changes, but gradually things turned around. I’ve had relapses from time to time, especially when the grandchildren came along. I think every grandparent wants to spoil their grandchildren. Thank God our grandchildren’s parents are working to raise their daughters to develop good values.

We’re all learning that to share our time and our resources with others is the best gift for everyone. I’m glad we developed a different definition for the perfect Christmas.

I want to wish you, your family and friends

a very happy and joyful Christmas

filled with love, laughter, good food, and

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16 Responses to Virtual Advent Tour: Do I Really Need a Perfect Christmas?

  1. kaye says:

    Simpler really is better. As long as you are with family, the magic happens. Have a wonderfully serene and joyous Christmas.

  2. A timely reminder, Margot! I hope you have a lovely stressfree and happy Christmas.

  3. I tried not to get caught up in the perfect Christmas scenario either – it’s a lot of pressure on the women! We told our son that Santa brings what he thinks you need, so we could avoid trying to buy the top toy every year. Our son got home yesterday for the first time in close to a year, and we’ve decided our emphasis will be on enjoying him. I did bake cookies (two different kinds), bought a few gifts and will prepare a simple meal, all the while getting in every hug I can. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  4. Tami says:

    I am the Queen of trying to create those Norman Rockwell moments – and driving myself nuts in the process. And it never works. With out children now grown we are having to adapt our Christmas traditions and develop a new picture of “perfect”. And I’m actually looking forward to it, at least a little. 🙂

    Merry Christmas to you and yours. Have a wonderful celebration!

  5. Yes, I absolutely agree with you! I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

  6. Bumble says:

    Well, I’m sorry you had to go through a burst appendix to realize trying to be Martha Stewart is a pipe dream! But bless you for working so hard to create that magic for your loved ones each year. Have a merry Christmas Margot – you deserve it. Give our love to your family and enjoy all of that laughter, memories and scaled back batches of cookies.

  7. Marg says:

    A timely reminder of what is important at Christmas.

    Thanks for participating in the tour this year!

  8. TheBookGirl says:

    Well said Margot!

    I stood in a few lines for gifts myself — in my case in was certain rare Beanie Babies and the Tickle Me Elmo doll.

    As our family has gotten smaller over the years, we have had more muted celebrations, but the emphasis remains on enjoying our loved ones.

    Hope you have a wonderful holiday with your family and that the New Year brings joy.

  9. A beautiful post Margot. I know you’re enjoying a joyful Christmas this year, filled with the things that really matter (as you say so beautifully). Have a great time with the girls (and I agree that it is a great gift to have your grandchildrens’ parents raising them with the values that matter).

    Thank you for the gifts your blog provides all year long — I think of you often when I read a book or watch a movie because you recommended it!

  10. Merry Christmas Margot. All the best in 2012.

  11. Ann says:

    Each year I scale back a little more but I think that will change once my grandchildren are no longer babies.

  12. Simple is best. Happy belated Christmas!

  13. sprite says:

    I think what we really want to say with Christmas is, “I love you so much.” And sometimes that gets lost. And sometimes we don’t need to work so hard to say it — but we forget that. Thanks for the reminder that big doesn’t mean better and an “I love you” goes pretty far even without decoration or icing.

  14. Staci says:

    What a wonderful story that you shared with us. We’ve done the same thing here…scaled back and concentrated on what makes Christmas wonderful…family!! I hope your Christmas was wonderful!

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    I hope Gage never expects dozens and dozens of cookies! I barely had time to buy gifts!
    As an only kid I got LOTS of gifts. Every year. When I was in my 20’s I set a firm $100 limit (this was unheard of) and I’m happy to report that 15 years later we still have the limit. Actually Jason and I only bought 3 small things for Gage to open this year and my parents didn’t go crazy either. I don’t know if that will hold when he gets older, but I’ll try 😉
    I’m much more about honoring the traditions of my extended family. They mean more to me than any gift.

  16. kaye says:

    “One breath from death”–oh that’s never a good sign! It sounds like you learned a lesson that year that we all have to learn eventually. My mother and father always made a great celebration on Christmas Eve. When they couldn’t manage it anymore I took the reins and I suppose when it gets to be to much for me my kids will step up and carry on. But you are right simple celebrations are better–there is less dissappointment that way. I hope your holidays were wonderful.

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