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Help! I’m already failing at Advent! And Christmas is coming!

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If you're hyperventilating over Advent, you're doing it wrong.

Dear Katrina,

I am already failing at Advent! I still don’t have my Advent wreath! Every year I tell myself this is going to be the year that we have an Advent calendar and make Jesse Tree ornaments. It’s not happening. Before I know it, Christmas will be here and I’ll have missed Advent again.  

I hate that I am missing so many opportunities to make family memories with my children and share traditions with them to pass on to their own children. I used to love Christmas but as I get older I’ve started to dread it because it’s so much work such a chaotic time. I feel like my kids only see me stressed and panicked around the holidays. I can’t keep on like this. This isn’t what I want my girls to remember about me at Christmas, just a flurry of stress running from one chore to the next.  

Help me reclaim Christmas!

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Dear Christmas Reclaimer,

First off, BREATHE! Take a deep breath and let it out, and hear me: Your children don’t need to have The Perfect Advent and Christmas in order to make meaningful family memories. Some of my favorite, often humorous, Christmas memories were sloppy happenstance incidents that came about with little or no planning at all.   

You’re not wrong in trying to reclaim Advent, though. Give yourself permission to slow down, a moment. Allow yourself that much. And then, think this through, item by item:

  • Those Christmas cards can wait until after Christmas; there’s no hard fast rule that they need to be received before December 25th. It’s still Christmas on the 28th, so send them then! Or be like Duke Ellington — he used to send his Christmas cards all year round. And he was a genius!
  • Shopping can be done online. Next year just start it a little earlier.  
  • Say “no” to a few of those parties (it’s okay; it’s allowed) and remember that you don’t have to be the mom that bakes cookies for each of your children’s classroom Christmas parties.   
  • The house decoration can wait, in fact, should wait. I’ve seen families ruin their own Thanksgiving rest by stressing to get the Christmas decoration up that very same weekend. Decorate a little at a time. You can do it! I recommend following the lead the Church sets for us. Most parishes decorate incrementally, a little each week, in the lead-up to Midnight Mass.

The absolute best thing to do is to shut out all the noise of commercialization. Advertisements continually bombard us with flashing lights and noise, imposing ideas of what some particular company with a product to sell thinks Christmas should look like. Too many of us buy into it, too often. A perfect Christmas isn’t a Martha Stewart showcase, perfectly decorated and bursting with presents.

Try to listen to Advent music right now instead of the secular Christmas stuff on the radio, and stream your movie watching to avoid the commercials. Block out as much of the noise that hectors at us through the holidays, because there are only X shopping days left until Christmas.  

I observe Advent pretty simply in my own household. I have a wreath. I pace myself and slowly decorate over the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. I listen to my Advent playlist on YouTube and Spotify and take a break from social media, similar to Lent.  

A perfect Advent is one slowly, quietly, and prayerfully observed. Advent is the time we nest, similar to that of an expectant mother — like Mary. We may go to Mass, meal prep for family Christmas dinners, clear out space in the house for the tree and the Nativity scene. We prepare.  

Take heart, Mama. You haven’t failed Advent, or your kids! There’s still time to take it back from the frenzied premature celebration of Christmas.

Just take a big slow breath and practice this mantra as you exhale: “It’s not Christmas yet …”

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