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Slow down ... it's Christmas!

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From school concerts to office parties, from church celebrations to family get togethers it seems that we are put into high gear from December 1st until the first week of January.  Trying to squeeze time in for shopping and wrapping and decorating… not to mention the list of Christmas cards that need to be sent out yesterday… just typing this makes me tired.

Let’s stop for a minute and take a breath. We need to think about our expectations of Christmas.  Are we our own worst critic? Have we put so much pressure on ourselves to create the perfect holiday for our families that we have forgotten how to enjoy it with them? Do we find ourselves regretting all the hustle and bustle; wishing we could just enjoy the season?  Often times the answer to these questions are "yes, we are" and "yes, we have" and "yes, we do". 

I’ve realized that the things I loved most about Christmas weren’t the presents under the tree but the presence of family, and the pause to the routine of regular life: my parents, home from work, aunts and uncles dropping by for some tea and coffee, cousins to play games with.  It was being able to stay up late baking cookies or singing carols; reading stories by the light of the fireplace; and Christmas lights.  It was sleeping in rather than waking up before dawn to catch the school bus; getting up to hot breakfast before spending hours on the hills, sledding or building snow forts with my siblings.  The amazing things that I remember most cost nothing or close to it. 

Yet each year, I find myself in that frantic race of the holiday to buy one more toy that will soon be relegated to some closet or toybox. I feel obligated to buy gifts for people simply because they bought me one first.  I have let my need to create the perfect holiday run away with me - toy ads and lists to Santa pushing me to try to appease every little want and desire.  Yet is that toy or game, iPhone or tablet, even going to be remembered 5, 10 or 15 years from now?  I doubt it. 

This Christmas I’m making a new plan: spend more time making memories and less money on gifts; experience the joys that I remember as a child with my own children:  bake some cookies, build that snow fort, listen to the carols, drive or walk through the neighbourhoods looking at lights.  These are the opportunities to provide what our families most desperately need - attention and connection.  These are moments that will become memories in the decades to come. During your time off from your work routine take time out to revel in the peace and joy to be found in the wonder of Christmas.