Rejoice (or not)

image courtesy of

Ed Cyzewski wrote a great post around Thanksgiving entitled The Search for a Meaningful Christmas: Moving Beyond Guilt and Sentiment. It’s actually the first installment of three posts. Parts 2 and 3 are What are We Celebrating? and How Should We Celebrate Christmas?, respectively. If you haven’t read them, they’re definitely worth your time. Especially if, like me, you’re not exactly bursting at the seams with Christmas cheer.

Honestly? It’s stressful: Decorating, gift shopping, crowds, school parties, grown up parties, Christmas plays and/or recitals, travel plans, etc. We over eat, over spend, over extend ourselves to the point of near exhaustion, and yet we’re supposed to be merry and bright because it’s Christmas time. I know many of you reading this are shaking your heads and thinking, “That’s not what Christmas is all about. It’s about celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world, and even those who aren’t Christians can still celebrate a time to be with family and friends; to give and receive gifts as tokens of what we mean to one another.”

And all that’s great. You’re right–that IS what it’s all about, but that doesn’t mean many of us aren’t doing all the aforementioned things that add stress to the season. I’m not exactly feeling like the Grinch, I guess I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. I may get there, I may not. But I’m done feeling guilty about it. Ed really nailed it in his post when he said:

“I wonder if we sometimes try to force meaningful experiences or major spiritual epiphanies on ourselves during holidays like Christmas.”

I’ve realized that’s what’s always bothered me about this time of year. I’ll repeat what I wrote on Ed’s blog: I think people get overwhelmed and depressed at Christmas because they feel guilty for not getting swept up in the magic of Christmas. Instead of thinking about all they have, people often focus on what they are lacking–whether in spirit or material possesions.

This year, I’m giving myself the gift of permission. Permission not to feel guilty for not being merry and bright just because I’m supposed to. And by letting myself off the hook for not feeling what I’m supposed to feel, I’m leaving myself open to be caught off guard by unexpected moments of joy, of which I will be truly grateful.

This post is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival: Rejoice hosted by my friend Peter Pollock. To read more (and undoubtedly more uplifting) posts on the topic of Rejoicing, please visit his blog,

« « Previous Post: Make a joyful noise (by Billy Coffey) | Next Post: How to Write a Book This Year (by Ed Cyzewski) » »

28 Responses to “Rejoice (or not)”

  1. kelybreez December 14, 2010 at 12:37 am #

    You know, it’s pretty surprising that when you open your mouth to sing, like in the pic in your blog post, all that light comes out. Amazing.

    But seriously, I’m with ya. I absolutely LOVE the way God surprises me every day with great things. You can’t usually plan them. We plan a big Christmas worship time, and it’s fine, but not what everyone hoped for, maybe… And then I go home, sing Silent Night with my kids in our living room, and we touch something holy.

    Love those.

  2. tsholo December 14, 2010 at 1:58 am #

    this is exactly what I’ve been thinking as well…

    I feel guilty because my family is so excited about all of it and I just can’t get into the Christmas cheer.

    Christmas used to be so much better back when I was a kid and wasn’t the one planning the trips and worrying about what to get everybody and making sure I don’t overspend and end up broke on January 1st – back then any present you got someone was great, now they expect more cos you should know better…

    growing up is really not all it’s cracked up to be!

  3. Michael December 14, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    You have no idea how much freedom this just brought to me.

  4. Glynn December 14, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    It’s 11 days until Christmas – and we still have to write and mail cards, put up the tree, finish shopping, avoid nasty weather predicted for the next two days, get my car back from the shop — AAGGHH!

    I think you and Ed have hit upon something. We get caught in a vise at Christmastime — the buy-buy-buy pressure to keep the economy afloat and the warmly-celebrate-so-you-can-have-wonderful-memories pressure. And so we get guilty and grinched.

    Great post, Kathy.

  5. Ed Cyzewski December 14, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    I’m so glad my post has helped. Thanks expanding on it and sharing it here.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to meditate on the Christmas story for four hours, purchase fair-trade sustainable customized organic presents for my family, and bring peace to the world… 😉

  6. Candy December 14, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Most Christmases I’ve felt the exact same way. This year it’s a little better as I’ve given myself permission not to hang the garland from the railing and not to attend every party and not to put a tree in every single room of the house. I think some of our grinchiness comes with the realization that the excitement of childhood Christmases was often met on Christmas night with a bit of a let-down. And the fact that we know the gawdy yard art will be frozen in the ground until May.

    • Helen December 14, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

      HEY! I love gaudy yard art!
      My hubs, however, does not. He gets to say what the OUTSIDE of the house looks like. MWAHAHHAHAHAAHAAA!

  7. Kelly Sauer December 14, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    Sigh. Do you ever wonder, if it’s so stressful, why do we keep doing it? Why don’t we just stop? I guess that would just be a little weird…

    • A Simple Country Girl December 14, 2010 at 9:22 am #

      and that’s okay too miss Kelly, isn’t it? to be a little weird. i am actually the bus driver for “weird” so i’ll come by and pick ya up around noon.


  8. Sandra Heska King December 14, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Christmas can be a lot of work. Really, I think I’d rather have it in my heart all year.

  9. Tony Alicea December 14, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    I don’t talk about this much because a lot of people tend to get offended but in my community, we don’t make a big deal of holidays…at all.

    On Easter, my pastor didn’t even talk about the resurrection or recount the entire story in dramatic fashion (GASP!). During Christmas, we don’t do a series on the birth of Jesus, make big signs to attract first-time guests, or have a big Christmas party with punch and best Christmas sweater contests (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    We’re not trying to make a statement in a counter-cultural way, but we make a big deal of the cross EVERY WEEK. We don’t find it necessary to get caught in the hype of holidays. It just works for our community. I find it refreshing.

    Even in my family, on Christmas we pick names out of a hat and ONLY buy presents for the one person we choose. We celebrate on Christmas Eve (we call it Nochebuena). We sleep in Christmas day.

  10. A Simple Country Girl December 14, 2010 at 9:35 am #


    Indeed this is an excellent summation of the peer pressure persuasion & pressure-cooker of perfection that we oftentimes soak in this time of year. Thank ye for this. It is good.

    Now, go stand on your sidewalk (bring your snow & jammies) and I’ll pick ya up too…


  11. Maureen December 14, 2010 at 9:53 am #

    Great pic and a wonderful post.

  12. V.V. Denman December 14, 2010 at 10:36 am #


    We oughtta just try being merry all year long. That would make them wonder, wouldn’t it?

  13. Lisa notes... December 14, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Christmas is definitely stressful. I actually sat down at my computer to work on my Christmas list, but decided I needed to browse around on the “rejoicing” blog carnival first. Glad I did. Now I can give myself permission to NOT send out Christmas cards this year because it’s just another major stressor. Thanks for sharing. Permission is a wonderful gift to give.

  14. Jojo Agot December 14, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Katdish, you just articulated everything that I’ve always wanted to say about Christmas. What can I say? This is brilliant! Thank you!

  15. Jason December 14, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Right on the money Kat!!!!!!!

  16. S. Etole December 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Will you pick me up, too, SCG? Except I can’t help but rejoice whatever the day.

  17. jasonS December 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Great post, Kat. Seriously love it.

    Only thing is, where Kely imagined you singing and light coming out, I thought it looked like you were cussing and nature put a censor over your mouth. 🙂 You know I love you, right?

  18. Michelle@ Graceful December 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    Yup, I hear you on this one. Last year I overheard my oldest say to my youngest, “Mommy’s don’t like Christmas, Rowan.” Yikes. Major wake-up call. This year we are seriously scaling back on everything — events, parties, baking, spending, buying. It’s slower, it is. I feel just a hair better. Maybe my kids won’t deem me Mommy Grinch this year after all.

  19. Megan Willome December 14, 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Since this is my first Christmas without my mom, it’s not happy-happy. I find myself drawn to Frosty and Rudolph because they don’t put as much pressure on me. My husband is buying the gifts. I gave up on the cards. But I’m singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

    • Helen December 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

      Megan, I’m sorry. This is my first Christmas without my Mom, too. I’m not feeling “Holly Jolly” so much this Christmas, but I am not as overwhelmingly sad as I was on Easter, Mother’s Day, my birthday, and her birthday. She gets to hear Bing Crosby sing Christmas songs in person this year! I’m sure her blue eyes are sparkling with joy!

  20. Helen December 14, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    I am still supposed to be off my feet this week. I still haven’t decorated except to put the Christmas throws mom made on the couch and chairs (but don’t tell Candy. I’d like to have her think my house is putting the TACK in tacky).
    I bought my aunt a new doorbell from a catalog for Christmas and am having it sent directly to her. Friends and family who like to read will get Billy’s book. The teens in the family are getting exactly what they want from me: cash. Not exactly sentimental, but I’ve ordered an ornaments with a compartment to hide the cash in from another catalog. Once I figure out how to work paypal, I may send some friends some soap from SarahBee’s etsy shop, and some kids clothing embroidered by Wendy. (For some reason PayPal is giving me trouble. I think I used an old email address with them and may have to start over if they let me…).
    Are these choices perfect? Could be! Then again, maybe not. But if I drove myself crazy and walked on my broken toes all over the kingdom, I wouldn’t find anything of better quality!

  21. Hazel Moon December 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Instead of our BIG tree, I managed to get out our tiny small tree with a string of white lights and a bit of garland. It is cheery and the only decoration done by me this year. Robert did put up some lights in the yard and across the front gate. I cannot get out to purchase gifts, so for my daughter who is far away, I ordered on line what I hoped would fit and they would like. I dislike shopping for others, as I can’t make up my mind. So many likes and dislikes. Others will get a gift card. It works. Oh yes, I did send out early Billy’s books to two friends, and another book I know a friend will like. I am rejoicing anyway, because Jesus is the greatest gift for me and for all who will receive him.

  22. Billy Coffey December 15, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    Thank you, Helen and Hazel. You ladies rock.

  23. Frank December 15, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    I think spontaneity opens us op to joy. It’s hard to be joyful when everything is mapped and planned out. Do this, do that, set up the tree this day, buy gifts for the kids the next, wrap, hide, rinse and repeat… Instead, let’s just go with the flow. Look to the skies for snowflakes. Sing at the top of our lungs our favorite Christmas carol and invite uncomfortable stares. Build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. (If you have snow) Have fun!

  24. David Rupert December 18, 2010 at 10:22 am #

    What a great analysis. When people tell me I should feel something…happy, sad, magical … i tend to take on the opposite feeling. that’s just the ‘anti’ me!

  25. Jojo Agot December 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Three years later, I finally understood what you meant. How slow of me.

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