Pre-Christmas rush can turn an elf into Scrooge

"It can be difficult to stay level when there is so much to do.

I have a holiday cocktail napkin that reminds me to keep a sense of humor during the busy weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

The napkin shows a mother and daughter preparing to take Christmas dinner out of the oven. The little girl looks excited, and while her mother appears serene, the caption reveals her inner turmoil, “She was one plum pudding away from a Yuletide meltdown.” After several decades of cooking Christmas dinner, I understand her angst.

By now, I should be a pro at Christmas dinner. I should be able to get a hot turkey dinner on the table before the gravy congeals, but every year, it’s a challenge. No matter how organized I am ahead of time, as soon as that bird comes out of the oven, there is a crazed flurry of activity in the kitchen.  Within minutes, my kitchen looks like a bomb went off. And then, once we sit down, almost everyone eats far too quickly (perhaps they were expecting hot turkey), and the feast that took days to prepare is over in 15 minutes.

The culinary challenge of Christmas dinner is only one aspect of the season that can make a cheerful holiday spirit as heavy as plum pudding. The weeks that lead up to Christmas Day can morph the jolliest elf into Scrooge. It can be difficult to stay level when there is so much to do.

While I haven’t quite perfected the art of a stress free holiday season, a few years ago I had a revelation that helps me keep my preparations in perspective. In the wee hours of the morning, on a night before Christmas, to-do-lists, instead of sugarplums, were dancing in my head.  As I tossed and turned, wondering how I would accomplish all the tasks with which I had burdened myself, it came to me: Christmas Day would come and go no matter what I did or didn’t do.

Since that sleepless night, I shop less, bake less, and decorate more simply. These changes have freed up time for reflection and spiritual preparation, both of which help me to be more present to my family and others.

I never forgot the ‘reason for the season’, nor did I forget to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’ when I was caught up in the hustle and bustle of busy sidewalks.  I just got a little sidetracked in my efforts to make Christmas extra special.  Although I didn’t realize it then, I realize now that my Christmas preparations expressed a longing for something intangible that could not be found in the material aspects of Christmas.

Christmas is a celebration of generosity and relationships. While special foods, gifts and decorations help to make the holiday special, it’s important to keep these things in perspective.  If we are one plum pudding away from a Yuletide meltdown, we have probably gone overboard.

I have definitely toned down my preparations since that night when to-do lists disturbed my sleep. Now, if I could only figure out a way to get a piping hot dinner on the table, I would be the jolliest of elves.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. She has a background in education and faith formation. Her blog is Contact her at .