Perfect Christmas — the evil of good?

Elaine Luddy Klonicki, Columnist

It’s the week before Christmas and my husband is in Copenhagen on a business trip. My teenage daughter is cloistered upstairs in the den, studying for exams. I’m trying to get ready for Christmas, but it’s slow going.

While we’re excited to have our first Christmas in our new home, we’re also exhausted. Although our dream home is all that we imagined it would be, the transition wasn’t quite as easy as we had hoped. It turned cold several days before we got the new furnace installed, and we lost a lot of sleep before the cat got adjusted and stopped crying at night.

Thankfully, my extended family has agreed not to exchange gifts this year. We all agreed that they were becoming an unwanted hassle. None of us have little ones anymore, and we all have plenty of material things. We felt that contributing the money to a charity was the better choice, especially considering the enormity of the recent tragedies.

But I guess with the cessation of gift-giving, I seemed to put off the rest of the preparations as well. Christmas just seemed to come up too quickly and, although I saw more and more evidence of it in stores, I turned a blind eye. I was still trying to find my belts and my husband’s shoes and figure out which switch turned on which light.

We bought a tree on the day Gary left, because I knew I couldn’t get it into the stand on my own. I brought out the lights and the ornaments, but it has remained unlit. I haven’t written my annual Christmas letter, made any Christmas crafts or done any baking.

Still I’m sure that when Christmas Eve rolls around, I’ll be as ready as ever. The tree will be done, Gary will be home from his trip, and our son Doug will be in from the west coast.

The extended family will come for our simple buffet and no one will care whether I make the food or buy it (as long as I make my cheeseball!). We’ll just be happy to be together and to celebrate the birth of the child.

What a pleasure it has been not to have to get up at 7 a.m. for the early-bird specials, fight for a parking place, or listen to screaming kids at the mall. Somehow this year all of that seems so much-ado-about-nothing, or at least about the wrong thing.

Being less involved in preparations this year has allowed me to become more of an observer. It’s made me curious about when this need to have a Currier and Ives Christmas arose? Not that gifts aren’t fun, holiday food isn’t wonderful, and decorations aren’t beautiful. But I’m afraid that in the pursuit of a perfect Christmas, we may be missing out on the essence of Christmas.

Perhaps we should all take a moment, as this Christmas approaches, to analyze which aspects of the holiday are most important to us. What message do we really want to pass on to our kids? For most of us, it’s simply about being with the ones we love, sharing special times together.

With all the hullabaloo in the media about the “War on Christmas,” the Spirit of Christmas is alive and well and available to all of us. No one can steal the true meaning of Christmas. All we have to do is reach deep into our hearts and offer the love that is there to everyone we meet. In the end, it’s the best gift we can give.

This blessed season, I wish you love, happiness, and above all, peace.

This article first appeared in The News and Observer, December 23, 2005

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