The danger of Christmas magic

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

We’ve all seen the wonder and awe of Christmas magic in the faces of little children as they encounter a season where it seems like anything is possible. The magic of the appearance of presents and light-filled decorations and holiday sugary treats is capped off by the appearance of Santa with his elves and reindeer in every shopping mall.

Most of us remember feeling some of that wonder ourselves when we were young, and we do our best to recreate it every year for the young ones in our midst. Now that we are the adults who are doing all the shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, decorating, and entertaining, though, it doesn’t seem quite to magical for us anymore.

We still long for that wonder to make an appearance for us as well, so we tend to set our expectations for the season very high. We think that if we get all of the preparations just right, Christmas magic will make everyone get along, all of our difficult family dynamics will disappear for the day (at least), and peace will descend all across the planet.

This recipe of high expectations of magic mixed with all of the tasks of the season and the high levels of family time (with all of the triggers that brings) makes for a lot of stress and a lot of disappointment.

The danger of clinging to the expectation that Christmas magic will appear and make our lives perfect—even if only for the one day—is that it is a myth that will always let us down.

No matter how hard we work at our preparations, things will still break down this season, people will still have trouble getting along, awkward and difficult family dynamics will still be awkward and difficult, travel will still be challenging, people will still get sick, and all we will see are the many ways the magic didn’t create perfection.

The good news is that we have the power to release ourselves from this trap of stress of disappointment simply by changing our expectations of the day.

When we let go of the dream that this one day is going to magically make everything the way we want it to be and embrace what is instead, we discover that the magic is still there … only not in the way that we were looking for.

The truth is that many people are kinder and more generous this time of year. When we stop focusing on those who don’t change for the season the way we want them to, we have more space to notice the many who do spread kindness and cheer to others.

The beauty of the many twinkling lights in the darkest time of the year is still a thing of wonder, even if we didn’t get every bit of our decorating done or our neighbor didn’t put out the amount (or style) of decorations we thought they should.

There are still many treats of the season—favorite songs, delicious food and sweets, favorite Christmas shows—that make an appearance only this time of year. Treats that are made all the more delicious and enjoyable for their limited availability.

When we let go of the expectations that everything be perfect and that family togetherness be a time of uninterrupted peace, joy, and harmony, when we let things simply be as they are (whether they are the way we’d prefer them or not), there are still plenty of blessings to go around.

If you’re feeling a lot of stress as you head into this last week before the holiday, take a few moments and consider whether there are any expectations of Christmas magic that are contributing to your overwhelm. Acknowledge the beauty of the dreams of perfection that you’ve created and then let them go. Bring yourself back instead to an appreciation of what is real in this moment.

And from that place of appreciation and gratitude, you just might find that the magic is still all around you any way.

Wishing you as unstressed a week of preparation as possible!

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