And, whoosh… the holidays are over.
Yesterday, after the last guest departed, I felt as if I had emerged from a long-distance underwater swim. When the door closed and the last good-bye was made, it was as if I had broken through the surface of the water and could breathe deeply again.
It was quiet for a moment. I read the newspaper. I took a long time drinking my coffee. I exercised.
And then I started packing up the Christmas decorations. Bye bye Christmas dishes, sparkly holiday candles, and reindeer cookie jar. See ya next year Elf on the Shelf, singing snowmen, and red and green bathroom towels. Sayonara to the Santa statues and my Grandmother’s tablecloth. I’ll see you in eleven months.
Oh, don’t worry: I love all of it. Many of my decorations have come from my family, especially my mother, so each one represents all of the Christmases that have come before.
Our Christmas season had the perfect amount of family and friends, yummy food and delicious wine, and laughter and children being way too loud. I got a lot of sleep, made it to the movies twice (to see both Frozen and Catching Fire), and even read a book. I really, truly, actually relaxed.
My key to being able to embrace the holiday season was a small gift I gave to myself: on December 14, I turned off my work email on my phone. In fact, as this post goes online, that email is still turned off; I plan to connect it back later today. I don’t recall the last time I was out of touch for this long; not even on my maternity leaves did I disconnect so completely. It was an important way of creating the space in my life to focus on Christmas and my family. No distractions, no multi-tasking. I needed it. We all needed it.
Our holidays were a bit unusual this year, as we kicked off the celebrating with a quick trip to a resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where, with family (at our peak we were a group of 15!), we spent our days outside by the pool and ocean, and enjoyed the gorgeous weather. We swam with dolphins (a bucket list item for me), we reconnected with one another, and my kids got overdue time with their beloved cousins. We all came home wanting more—confirmation that the trip was a success.
Another change for us this holiday season was the scaling back of some of our gift giving. My husband and I made this choice because we want our children to see Christmas as more than presents. We made good progress but have even more to do next year. (Santa did, alas, deliver a Rainbow Loom to our house, and I am now spending too much time picking up rubber bands from our floor and watching bracelet-making videos on YouTube.)
From my kids’ first time in our church’s Christmas pageant (where my daughter was a very convincing sheep) to our annual visit to the Boston Pops holiday concert, I’ll take away so much from this holiday season and none of it could have been found under our tree. It was all about being together and creating lovely memories—which is the best way to end 2013.