I love to watch young children at Christmas. They intuitively grasp the joy and wonder of the holiday. Everything is exciting. Everything amazes them from the twinkling lights to the glow of the Advent candles.
- Do you wish that you could reclaim some of that joy and wonder?
- Do you wish you could find away to create a meaningful Christmas?
- Do you wish that you could slow down and simply enjoy the holidays with your family?
Today it is my pleasure to offer this interview with fellow blogger Doña Bumgarner. Doña writes at Nurtured Mama where she publishes posts full of encouragement and inspiration for mamas. Doña is the co-author of “21 Days to a Peaceful Holiday” a new e-course that starts December 1st.
What is your favorite childhood holiday memory?
My favorite holiday memory is the Christmas just after my parents separated. As a result of that split my brother and I moved down off of our rural piece of property and into a condo in town with our mom. My mom didn’t have the money that year to buy a Christmas tree for our house, but she got permission from my dad to go back up to our land and cut a Manzanita tree that she set up in the living room of the new house that still felt uncomfortable and not really ours. Mom jerry-rigged the tree stand and we got out the box of ornaments she’d been collecting all of our lives – hand made and collected on trips and passed down from her parents – and hung them up on the funny-shaped but beautiful tree.
That tree fell over almost every night but each morning we’d pick it up, put the ornaments back on it and breathe in the scent of Manzanita and home. I have no memory of what was or wasn’t under the tree that year, but the tree itself is one of my favorite (if bittersweet) memories.
How did you experience the wonder of Christmas as a child?
I didn’t grow up in a religious family, but Christmas was always threaded through with magic when I was a child. I don’t remember when I realized that “Santa” was really my mom, but even now, she still embodies that spirit and signs some of her gifts “from Santa.” I remember making cookies and fruitcake, and I remember falling asleep to the hum of my mom’s sewing machine as she worked away at things she was making for us.
Because we lived in the country and didn’t have electricity for some of those years, I also associate the holidays with firelight and candles and long dark nights with an arc of brilliant stars overhead. It was a time of turning in, renewing, resting. That is magical in its own way, like imagining the bulb of the flower, deep underground, preparing itself to send forth new life when the sun returns.
How do you infuse your holiday celebrations in wonder for your daughter?
My daughter is only 2, so I haven’t had a lot of practice at this yet! So far I am focusing on the activities we can do as a family. She really enjoyed going to the Christmas tree farm and getting a tree last year, and in July she told me she was really excited about Christmas because she wanted to hang ornaments on the tree. Last year she was mesmerized by the twinkle lights and this year I want to take her to see some local Christmas light displays.
We’ve talked about Santa a little bit, but she doesn’t seem particularly engaged with that story. Mostly I just follow her lead. Wherever my daughter sees magic, that’s what I’ll offer her more of.
I’m also planning to involve her in making cookies and other gifts this year. I have such fond memories of doing similar things with my mom and I want to share that with my daughter, too.
How do you feel about the holidays?
In spite of my fond childhood memories, I have very mixed feelings about the holidays. I struggle with seasonal depression, and I’m at my lowest just before Christmas. I also have a lot of sad memories of holidays divided between my parents after they divorced, always wanting to be where I was not, or wanting us all to be together in ways that were impossible. As an adult, I found the busyness and expectation of the holiday season really overwhelming. I wanted to rest and be quiet, but there were always so many things pulling at me and filling up my schedule.
But I still love making and giving gifts. I love the celebrations with food and candles. I love making cookies and I love decorating the mantle with pine boughs and berries. I love driving around looking at Christmas lights with a mug of hot chocolate and I have loved The Nutcracker since I was a little girl.
The last few years have been a journey of embracing the things I love and setting boundaries around the things that drain me. It has taken a lot of work, but I’m beginning to look forward to Christmas again each year, which is something that I didn’t feel for a long time.
What inspired you to create this course?
The spark of inspiration for this class was overhearing someone at the grocery store, in mid-October, talking about how Christmas was already stressing her out. It made me sad, and I wanted to sit her down and give her all the tools I have gathered to make my own holidays less stressful. So I thought, why not offer them in a class to a wider audience?
Not only have I worked through my emotional struggles with the holidays, I have a background as a project manager. I know a lot about how to organize, plan, and complete projects, both big and small. It turns out those skills are really helpful when applied to things like making and budgeting for a gift list, planning a party, or just managing a busy family calendar.
When my friend Sarah over at Bluegrass Redhead said she wanted to be involved I jumped on the opportunity. She has a totally different perspective – she loves the holidays unabashedly! But after her husband lost his job suddenly a couple of years ago, they had to scale back and re-calibrate their own expectations. She discovered a whole new – and wonderful – way to embrace Christmas. So her perspective is going to really be an interesting balance to mine.
Why do you think we tend to get weighed down with the excess and expectations of the holidays?
There is so much marketing pressure around Christmas in North America. This year in my local stores, I started seeing Christmas stuff on sale before Halloween. Many stores just skipped over our American Thanksgiving holiday and have gone straight to Christmas.
It is incredibly hard to overcome that kind of onslaught. You start to buy the story, that if you have this or have that, buy this or gift that enormous, expensive thing, that you will be happier, you will be loved, and you will have the perfect Christmas. You lose sight of the reality that the best things about holidays aren’t found in stores.
In addition to that, many families carry expectations about what holidays should feel like, and that often translates into “bigger and better” every year.
And then because we are stressed out and tired, or feeling sad and empty, we eat too much, drink too much, or have too many cookies. We fill the ache with what’s at hand, which, at Christmas time, is usually something rich or filled with sugar. And then we feel guilty about over-indulging. It is a relentless spiral that leads to strict New Year’s resolutions that we have no hope of keeping.
Stepping back at the beginning of December and getting clear on your family’s priorities and limits can save you so much energy, heartache and stress, not to mention money and time! Scaling down the expectations and excess is the key to a truly happy and peaceful holiday.
What can people expect to receive if they sign up for your course?
The course will be 21 emails, delivered daily and beginning on December 1. Sarah and I will alternate writing them and each message will contain a story, a suggestion, challenge or new practice for you to try, and an invitation to connect further. We will have a private Facebook group where students can connect and continue the conversation with us, and each other, if they wish (totally optional!).
The topics will range from ways to re-think gift-giving, how to get organized, how to adjust expectations, how to find more room for your own self-care, ways to approach memory keeping, and what we can learn from popular Christmas music and movies. I’m totally excited by our topic list and I can’t wait to share it with the class.
You can read more details about the class and register here: