“Happy Holidays!” It’s more than just a greeting–it’s also a wish and a goal. Everyone longs for more joy in their life. But how do we make the holidays truly happy? If we asked a hundred different people, we would get a multitude of answers, because happiness–like many things–is an ongoing conversation.
Today, I’m excited to take our conversation to a new level. I asked some of the wisest, happiest, and most engaging bloggers I know, what they are doing to fill this Christmas season with joy. Their responses are awesome, and I’m honored to share them with you in two, separate, blog roundups. Without further ado, here are three, simple strategies, for increasing holiday joy!
Joyful Wisdom for Happy Holidays
In the Ingles family, our favorite holiday tradition is the day we go to the farm and pick out the perfect family Christmas tree. The ride down we load up the car, stop to get donuts and coffee, and listen to Christmas music as we sing along on the 50-minute ride. Once we get to the farm, we find the prized tree and snap a few photos for the album and cut it down. We also make sure we take a quarter-inch of the tree trunk so we can make an ornament to hang on the tree. The ornament gets decorated and inscribed which number it is. After strapping down the tree to the car, we head home in the same fashion, singing along with a holiday radio station. That afternoon we decorate the interior and exterior of the home. Then finish up with the tree. After we accomplish all this hard work, we rest by the cozy fireplace with some hot cocoa, popcorn and watch The Polar Express.
This day we focus on family and coming together before the holiday season begins. It is our opening ceremony to the season. We spend so much time working and going different directions all year long that we rarely celebrate the life we are given except on occasional holidays and important events. The Christmas season is our time to enjoy each other and appreciate the meaning of the season, to reflect on the year that has almost passed, and cherish those memories we have created together. Most importantly it is a time we pause and observe the start of the season of preparation for the yearly celebration of the Lord’s birth.
It’s a refrain we hear again and again as we shop, pass by strangers on the street, or embrace a friend. Images flash on our TV screens and appear on ads as we surf the internet; each one telling us all the things we must buy to have a truly “Happy Holiday.”
But… if we stop to take a breath… put the chaos on hold… and peek behind the veil of cliche, we can find the real source of happiness during this holiday season.
I think the greatest detriment to holiday happiness is clutter; too many decorations, too many gifts, too many activities, and, well… you get the idea. In an effort to put the “happy” back in “holiday,” I have, over the years, tried to simplify Christmas. Maybe, for me, the ease in eliminating some of the Christmas trappings is that I am a guy because my wife still loves all that stuff. So for our family, more important than minimizing the decorations is the desire to create traditions that help us focus on the simple meaning of God’s hope, peace, joy, and love.
Each Christmas Eve we let the kids open one Christmas gift, but not before we read the Bible story of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Luke 2:1-21 is our favorite passage as it lays out the real miracle and joy of Jesus’ birth that happened more than 2,000 years ago. Reading the story together reminds our family that the real gift of Christmas is God, the Son, who wrapped himself in human flesh so that the World could experience a happiness that transcends any gift from Santa Claus.
Putting the story of Christ’s birth at the center makes the season something more than just a “Happy Holiday”.. it becomes a “Happy Holy Day” and reminder that God loved us so much, that He gave the gift of his Son so that whoever believes in Him will be saved.
Favorite Holiday Traditions
What is one of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
Simplicity. Not always the word one connects with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Yet this is the longing of our heart as a family–a search for simplicity in the midst of a chaotic world. For the past few Decembers, we have focused our hearts on Advent and created ways we can live more simply during this season. We eat simpler meals. We slow down our busy lives and we quiet our hearts to listen to the voice of God. Out of this simplicity we have been able to bless others. We encourage them when they feel stressed. We provide them with gifts offered from that which we have relinquished. And we notice that which might have been rushed past.
In our connection with simplicity, we have found an opportunity for solidarity with the poor. We seek to remain keenly aware that we are able to make a choice to experience a small taste of what it means to go without, while billions around the world are forced to live simple lives through no choice of their own. Together with our children, we pour over the pages of the various “gift catalogs” sent by charities seeking to meet the needs of those around the world. This direct connection between our simplicity and an increased ability to give to others has helped our children understand the impact of their choices all year round. In this way, Christmas has become about the power we have through Christ to give of ourselves rather than a time spent dwelling in the place where the self is center.
Continue the Happy Holiday Conversations
What are you and your family doing to make this holiday season extra special? I’d love it if you would join in the conversation, in the comments below.
Finally, for more holiday insights, check out part two of Conversations on Increasing Holiday Joy.