Eight Days to a Better, Blessed Catholic Season
by Beverly Stevens
Ladies, Take Back Your Christmas! It’s that time of year again, when women’s magazines inundate us with psychological studies about how depressed we get at Christmas.
Why are women often so sad at Yuletide? Mostly, it seems, we are casualties of the family under attack. Many are divorced, or have lost someone to illness. Or they are estranged from their family. Or they are suddenly the sole support of a family where a husband has been taken out of the work force — or out of their lives. Many are out of work – and down on their luck. Many women are just sick and tired, and about to give up hope.
For some of us, Christmas is a time when all of life’s downers seem to crowd around like ghosts pointing accusing fingers. Some women get mad. Others get sad. Others just party frenetically.
The worst part is that all this stands in high contrast to the genuine good times that everyone else seems to be indulging in, right? Okay, so here’s some concrete steps you can take to pull yourself out of the Christmas Trap – courtesy of the Catholic Church, which brought you the real Christmas in the first place.
Take a deep breath. And then take the next eight days to re-adjust your Christmas.
The First Day of Christmas: Get serious about making your season holy.
First, set your private Christmas goals, in a notebook reserved just for you. Here’s some ideas:
- Reduce the stress.
- Observe Advent.
- Treat yourself every day.
- Control your Christmas spending.
- Shop Catholic sources.
- Focus on helping others.
- Create beauty.
DAY ONE: Get serious about your Christmas experience.
The Second Day of Christmas: Reduce the stress.
Your Christmas experience is largely in your own hands. Think about how you can reduce your stress level.
Limit or eliminate TV altogether. You don’t need the noise, the sentimental craziness, the bad evening news or the commercials. Use the time you have saved to go for a daily walk, read a book, or bake cookies.
- Avoid crowds and traffic jams by limiting your driving to off-hours. Driving wastes time and gas, and drives your stress levels higher.
- Shop online.
- Suggest that you share planning and expenses for Christmas events with trusted friends or family.
- Swap services with a good friend — you can color her hair, and she can babysit your kids.
- Indulge in a warm bath – baking soda softens your skin, and a few drops of perfume add delightful scent.
- Set aside time before bed to pray.
REDUCE STRESS: Avoid frustrating traffic jams. Plan to drive at off-hours.
The Third Day of Christmas: Observe Advent.
Since medieval times, the Church in her wisdom has helped Christians prepare for the Nativity of our Lord.
- Contact your parish to see what their Advent plans are. If they are not observing the Season, find a Latin Mass parish near you
- If there are communities of Religious near you, visit their chapel, especially when they pray the Divine Liturgy.
- Make a good Confession at least once between December 1 and December 24.
- Set aside one evening each Advent week for your private devotional time. Light a candle. Play soft Advent music. Pray a rosary. Read the Biblical accounts in Matthew, Luke and Mark.
- Set up your Nativity Scene, but leave the Baby Jesus in a drawer so that the youngest family member or visitor can have the privilege of placing the Child in the manger. Take a photo and send it to them!
- Invite friends or neighbors to help decorate your Tree. Play Catholic chant music and serve simple refreshments.
OBSERVE ADVENT: Celebrate the Season by preparing for the Advent of our Lord.
The Fourth Day of Christmas: Treat Yourself Every Day.
You will be surprised how giving yourself a small treat every single day really does improve your mood.
- Take a walk.
- Light a candle in Church.
- Go to exercise or stretching class.
- Shop for a new Christmas outfit in a secondhand or vintage store.
- Ride your bike.
- Go for a swim.
- Invite a friend for coffee.
- Settle in with a good book.
- Get your hair done.
- Buy yourself a new lipstick.
- Attend a school or church Christmas concert.
- Go caroling.
TREAT YOURSELF: Take a walk with a friend.
The Fifth Day of Christmas: Control your Christmas spending.
Spending big bucks is about consumerism, not Christmas. Focus on spending with intent, for the right reasons and to support the right people.
- Instead of gifting busy friends and neighbors, give them the gift of time! Volunteer to make Christmas ornaments or cookies with their small children one afternoon. Sit with their elderly relative while they run around. Volunteer to walk their dog!
- Instead of meeting friends for restaurant meals, plan a potluck dinner at your place. (If you can’t cook, provide the table, the wine and the cleanup!)
- For wonderful, inexpensive gifts that enhance your faith and that of others, shop at online stores of Religious Orders.
- Patronize your parish’s annual Christmas Bazaar.
- Avoid buying expensive, ready-made gift packages – bake fresh Christmas cookies instead, taking care to wrap them beautifully!
- Give the gift of a FREE Regina Magazine subscription!
DITCH THOSE EXPENSIVE RESTAURANT MEALS: Cook with friends at home!
The Sixth Day of Christmas: Shop Catholic Sources.
Stop making global corporations richer. Many traditional Religious Orders and home-based businesses rely on Catholics doing their Christmas shopping at their stores – online or within their communities. And they are honest merchants, usually purveying top quality products.
- Trappists, Dominicans, Benedictines, and Cistercians are just a few of the Orders who produce spectacular beer, wines, cheeses, coffee, baked goods and specialty items.
- Visit your local Religious communities to see if they have any products – books, rosaries and CDs are very common.
- Many Catholic parishes have Christmas Bazaars with homemade items – check out the websites of parishes near you!
- Some parishes even have regular stores, which support their youth activities or other outreach.
- Parish bake sales are a great way to pick up sweets for gifts – and for your dinner party table!
- Patronize the Catholic companies you see online. (Maybe your homeschooling daughter could use some Catholic resources? Or your priest would welcome new vestments?)
SHOP AT CATHOLIC SOURCES: Many Orders rely on your Christmas spending to help them get through the year!
The Seventh Day of Christmas: Focus on helping others.
There is a lot of pain in this world, and we don’t have to hop a jet to find it or spend a million to make it better. You can help your neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners with simple gestures. (Plus, it helps to get your mind off your own worries!)
- Inquire at your parish to see if they need help with events in Advent or Christmas.
- Is your co-worker nursing a sick husband? Is your friend stressed to the max? Why not take her kids out for snow-sledding and hot chocolate? Or take her dog for a romp in the snow?
- Reach out to your neighbors with small gifts – a homemade tin of cookies with a pretty ribbon often goes a long way!
- If you know a family out of work, get together with some friends and organize a surprise food shopping expedition. Five friends donating $20 each can provide a family with a whole lot of food for the holidays!
- Can you cook? Bake? Sew? Knit? Do crafts? How about house-cleaning? A clean house, folded laundry, a home-cooked meal, a handmade Christmas wreath, or a knitted afghan are all great lifts for families under stress during the holidays.
IS YOUR NEIGHBOR SICK OR OVERWHELMED? Walking her dog can be a great Christmas mood-lifter!
The Eighth Day of Christmas: Create Beauty.
Christmas is ultimately about Beauty. Now is the time for you to take a fresh look at your life, to see where you can enhance the beauty of Life and the Faith.
- Gather greens and berries to fill your house with simple, fresh, fragrant Christmas decorations.
- Volunteer to decorate your Church for Christmas.
- Begin work on Christmas crafts – with friends, this is especially enjoyable.
- Give your home a new look for free! Use some of that time you’ve saved by turning off the TV — re-arrange the furniture in your living room, or give one wall a fresh coat of colorful paint.
- Sing along with chant CDs as you drive around.
- Throw a baking party! Invite friends over to make loads of cookies, sing Christmas carols and celebrate the season!
- If people ask what you’d like for Christmas, tell them you’re saving up to take that drawing & painting class you’ve always wanted—and that you accept donations gladly. (This will set you up nicely for the New Year!)
CHRISTMAS GREENS from a walk in a nearby woods can grace your table this year.