I usually don’t like Christmas. Now, before I offend anyone, let me make it perfectly clear that it’s the commercialization and the added family stress that leave a bad taste in my mouth. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is — and should be —the focal point of the holiday.
But, unlike most other people who recently tolerated several days of “quality time” with their in-laws and dug roll-away beds from closets to accommodate out-of-towners, my family stress comes from being forced to spend the holidays away from my loved ones. I’ve spent most of my adult Christmases longing for the opportunity to endure a night on my parents’ pull-out couch or trying to force myself to smile while choking down a mouthful of my aunt’s fruitcake at a family gathering.
Instead, I’ve always passed the holidays at home with my husband — just the two of us. It’s certainly not that we don’t want to see our families during that special time of year; it’s that all of our loved ones live out of state and our work schedules don’t really permit travel. After all, someone has to produce the newspaper that comes out on the morning of Dec. 26.
This year, however, was different. For the first time since 2005, I was allowed to take some time off from work around Christmas, and my husband, daughter and I spent five days with my family in St. Louis. Needless to say, I was thrilled to get away for awhile — especially since it was our daughter’s first Christmas.
Watching my little girl’s eyes light up as she ripped up wrapping paper, tried out her new toys and sampled holiday treats was a delight, but what really made the experience amazing was observing all of this in the presence of my family. I’m pretty sure my parents and siblings enjoyed my baby’s reaction to the Christmas festivities as much as my husband and I did.
Our trip home — combined with my reflections on the changes I’ve gone through this year — made me realize family really is the most important thing. It’s easy to forget that fact as we race to and from work, juggling chaotic daily routines while upholding social obligations and meeting all sorts of professional and personal demands.
So if you haven’t already done so, make sure to slow down — if only for a few moments — as we welcome the new year. Spend some time with loved ones, and be sure to enjoy a few holiday traditions. Don’t get so wrapped up in life that you miss out on the best parts of it.