Post-Christmas Reflections: Joys and Unmet Expectations

Christmas lamppost marker bells Intentional Mama

Bonjour, mes amis! I hope your hearts are full and your Christmas was memorable. I didn't plan to take a break from writing this past week, but ultimately it seemed best to focus on the significance of Christmas, family time, and sleep!

My family celebrates Christmas somewhat atypically: my parents and siblings haven't exchanged gifts for years; instead, we focus on quality time together over slow meals and a neighborhood walk. Yet in my husband's family, every couple buys gifts for every child, and all gifts are opened at once in a flurry of noisy excitement. The difference in family celebrations is amusing, but I enjoy the contrast!

I read this post from The Art of Simple earlier this week, and it helped prepare me for the inevitable hiccups and emotional moments of Christmas Day. There are so many expectations tied to Christmastime that it's normal to experience stress and disappointment along with the usual excitement and joy. Perfection isn't possible, but this year I was reminded that what goes without saying doesn'tMy preschooler had some very specific expectations that I was unaware of (like her desire to wear a dress that I hadn't packed). And it would have helped my family had I taken on more of the meal planning. We had a fantastic Christmas nonetheless, and my daughter claimed it was "the best Christmas ever," but talking about expectations beforehand would have eliminated some confusion and disappointment.

So next year, I'll ask my children what they think Christmas Day will be like, and I'll discuss specific details with family members beforehand:

  • When will we get together? How important is it to you that we arrive on time? Where would you like to sleep on Christmas Eve?
  • What do you envision Christmas morning will be like?
  • What would you most like to receive? If you don't receive it, what will help you feel better?
  • What do you think other family members would most like to receive?
  • When will we open stockings and gifts?
  • What should we eat? Who will provide and prepare this?
  My parents on a winter walk

My parents on a winter walk

The answers may seem obvious, but we can't assume others think like we do!

Interestingly, this 2002 study found that people get the most satisfaction from religious and family events at Christmas, and the least joy from the gifts themselves. Would you agree? What activity (or lack of activity!) did you enjoy most this year? What plans or expectations did you have to change?