“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”
– Bill McKibben in Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas (2013)
Today’s image: the ideal…
Okay, this word is too abstract to have a single ‘image’ attached to it. But you may have the picture in your mind of what the ideal Christmas looks like. In it, there may be many of the things mentioned so far in this Blogmas series – the snow, the fireside, the feasting, tasteful decorations, and the faultlessly wrapped and beribboned gifts arranged beneath a glittering tree. For those enjoying summer, perhaps there will be the perfectly-laid al fresco table beneath a veranda as a gentle breeze plays. It will be like a scene from a movie, or from a greetings card. The same probably goes for those who plan the ideal Eid, Diwali, Hannakah…
There is a particular pressure if you have children. You are so aware of how few childhood Christmases there are in one lifetime, that you strive to make it idyllic. It’s meant to be a holiday, time away from work for most of us, the whole production pivots on at least one member of the family taking too much on themselves. I say production because it can feel like launching a performance, from the planning, to preparations, to the run-up, the launch, and directing proceedings.
Amidst all of this, we can build up the postcard-perfect event in our minds, so that any shortfall adds to the stress. We know perfection is an abstraction, a fallacy, and yet… Annually many of us strive for it.
In Psychology, it is called ‘self-oriented perfectionism’ – imposing unrealistically high standards upon yourself. If you fear failure; if you refute compliments, or find it impossible to celebrate your successes, the times when you did pull it off; if you seek to control every detail; if you are continually your own worst critic, then your perfectionism may have become unhealthy.
As for the ideal celebration, the McKibben quote at the top of the page is right – you have to make the celebration your own, regardless of fashions, expectations, and ideals. McKibben challenges out modern-day commercial celebrations and suggests ways in which we can re-think or approach.
And right now is a good time to re-evaluate our standards. This year has been so far from perfect. It has taught us that there are things we cannot control, and reminded us to be thankful for what we have.