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What Does It Really Mean? Staying Mindful Through the Holiday Season

Welcome to the December Mindful Mama Carnival: Staying Mindful During the Holiday Season

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ. This month our participants have shared how they stay mindful during the holiday season. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


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The second Christmas of our marriage, and the first with our six-month-old baby, the beautiful flesh of our child made the whole miracle of incarnation new for me, and that newness touched on kairos (God’s time, not human time).

Now, all these years later, I plunge into the delightful business of painting Christmas ornaments with my grandchildren; I hear the hammer as Bion puts together a dolls’ house which looks remarkably like Crosswicks, our house in the country; the New York kitchen smells fragrant with Christmas cookies; this, for me, is incarnation. ~Madeleine L’Engle, Miracle on 10th Street

At this point I don’t think I’m going to let a Mindful Mama Carnival get away without quoting Madeleine, but this is one I definitely couldn’t leave out when talking of mindfulness during the holidays. Miracle on 10th Street is a book my mom bought me quite a few years ago, one I like to re-read every Christmas.

It’s a collection of story, meditations, letters, journal entries – all sorts of reflections from such a very wise woman, based on the time between Advent and the New Year.

I don’t just enjoy reading these stories – I find every year that I need them. Christmases have not always been wonderful (though many have), but there is much temptation to sink into melancholy or alternately frenzy as the maelstrom of commercialization that surrounds us reaches its high point – I find myself susceptible to both all too often.

Since having Bean, I’ve desired more strongly than ever to make the holidays a time of mindfulness and true celebration. Last year was good, though somewhat busier than I would have liked, and the joy of Bean and I visiting my family was tempered by the sadness of being separated from the husband when he wasn’t able to take vacation at that time.

This year is still an experiment in progress.

Another story Madeleine tells is how they make all their own Christmas cards and write long letters of the kind that may well only go out once a year. They refuse to allow the card companies to dictate their schedule, so many of the Christmas cards may not go out until Easter, which was very OK with them.

I think when I consider what I want for my family’s holiday, that is the kind of spirit I want to have. Laid back. Patient. Reflective. Community. Real.

Traditions and timeliness are things that are important to me and I want to maintain them, but I also want to learn where to say no.

This year we tried to get a Christmas tree on a weekend and found after an hour’s drive that the tree farm was jam packed with people and line ups as far as the eye could see. The trees were super expensive; the line to see Santa ended in tears (not terribly surprising) and ultimately it just wasn’t worth it for us to buy one there.

We hatched a plan to get a tree at Ikea, where they are basically free, but it would involve so much time and effort driving through traffic, fighting the crowds, trying to cut it shorter to make it fit our space, and ultimately only having it up for a few weeks – as I thought about it all, I came to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it.

This is not a time to try to fight to make something happen when it’s just too much. I could easily overload Bean and the husband with more such activities. I could easily increase my fret level about not having mailed my packages or cards yet. I could easily lament that everything is not going to fall perfectly into place when we have a toddler, two full time jobs, a generally messy house and two highly demanding pets to deal with on a daily basis.

But this year I’m not going to. We are making many of our gifts and will get them in the mail when we can. The house is probably going to stay generally messy. We might get a poinsettia or wreath in place of the tree, and we’ll do other things to decorate like hang up the stockings we already have right here.

Instead of trying to spend one more long headachey day waiting in lines or crowds, we’re planning a family morning in bed. Instead of spending tons of time and effort on an elaborate holiday dinner, we’re going to pick a few dishes and make them amazing. Instead of spending all our gift funds at the corporations, we’re weaning ourselves away from it as much as we can, making gifts homemade or experiential; including more focus on charity.

As with everything, it’s a journey. We don’t do it all perfectly and I doubt we ever will…we’ll take the easy way or feel discontent or allow the stress to overwhelm.

But ultimately I hope to take Madeleine as my inspiration and remember to be mindful – of family – of the meaning this holiday holds for me according to my beliefs – of this life that is so short that it is all the more necessary to make it count. In the end that is both the legacy and the memory I hope to pass down. I’m grateful yet again to Madeleine for teaching me in this as in so many things.


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21 Responses to “What Does It Really Mean? Staying Mindful Through the Holiday Season”

  • Kelly, such a great reminder to simplify and stay focused on what’s truly important during the holidays!

  • Darcel says:

    Sounds like your going to have a lovely and relaxing Christmas this year. It's so easy to get caught up in the makings, and busyness of the season. It's nice to sit back and remember the WHY and WHAT of the Christmas. Whatever that means for each family.

  • boheime says:

    I've been cutting things out, too. Trying to do special things was getting in the way of the specialness of everyday life.

  • SO true, life is a journey! Small baby steps….one foot in front of the other, I have to keep reminding myself! Thanks for sharing!

  • ithoughtiknewmama says:

    L'Engle is such amazing inspiration! I'm going to have to take Miracle on 10th Street out of the library today! I'm a big fan, but haven't read this yet and it sounds perfect for reading right now.

    Good for you for saying no, accepting, and not pushing your family too far. It's so easy to do otherwise!

    Thank you for hosting this wonderful carnival!
    My recent post 5 Ways to Stay Mindful This Holiday Season

  • Alicia C. says:

    Great post, Kelly! I was wondering if you'd give up on the tree or try to find one.

    I'm glad to hear you've come to the realization that it took me many, many years of stress and forced "joy" to figure out – you don't have to pack it all in there. "Tradition" should be one, maybe two, things that you do at the holiday season. Everything doesn't have to be done every year.

    We're making out own gifts this year, too, and it's been a lot of fun. When I made our advent calendar, I planned one simple activity per day. Only a few of them involve any major preparation, and I planned them for Saturdays so, if we don't get to them or one of us just doesn't feel like it, we still have Sunday to give it a try. This has been one of the most laid-back Christmases I've had as an adult!
    My recent post We're in This Together (Mindful Parenting Collaboration}

  • Rachael says:

    Ooh, ooh, family morning in bed: sounds just lovely! It reminds me of a Carnival of Natural Parenting post from last year — somebody (alas, I don't remember who) wrote that every member of her family gets a new pair of pajamas for Christmas, and that's what they wear all day. Enjoy!
    My recent post Changing the Story

  • Love that you are taking the time to do things at your own pace. The frenzy with Christmas trees always seems a little crazy to me when I’m sure a plant or tree in our own back yard would be delighted to have a few lights on it! Family morning in bed rather than long lines…I’m right with ya Mama…well not RIGHT with you exactly but, ah you know what I mean! Please do share some of those handmade gifts on your blog too.
    My recent post Birthing the Quiet Revolution

  • Wonderful reminders. It is so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas and lose the real meaning, the family time and the traditions. Merry Christmas! I’ll have to read that book.

  • Hobo_Mama says:

    I clearly need to read that book! I love her perspective on things. I'm going to embody that spirit as I (give up) try(ing) to get everything done by Christmas. :)
    My recent post Adding one more to the family bed, safely

  • Terri Babin says:

    That sounds like a wonderful book! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on mindfulness, we too are trying to avoid consumerisim as much as possible this year, and beyond. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family.

    ~Terri Babin
    My recent post Introducing Fluff Bling- The HOTTEST New Cloth Diaper Accessory!

  • Tat says:

    That paragraph you are quoting describes the perfect Christmas and one that I've never had. I grew up in a socialist country and we didn't celebrate Christmas there. I never managed to connect with it when I was older. And seeing how important it is to others, learning to say 'no' is a really hard skill to master for me. I hope we both get better at it ;)

    Thank you for the book recommendation. It sounds like a book I would need, too.
    My recent post Pre-school friendly tikvenik (recipe)

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