Those of us who are doing our best to try and follow the teachings of the Church know enough to not take our cues from secular society, especially in regards to what the world says is important at Christmas. We try not to get sucked into the culture of consumerism and commercialism and what has become society’s idea of the reason for the season; the emphasis on the material instead of the spiritual. Many of us have been there and done that in our former lives and had our own “V 8” moments so to speak.
All of that said some of us are now striving so hard to be good Catholics that we don’t allow for balance. We are replacing that former drive for materialism with the push for perfectionism. No wonder I hear many Catholics complain about the holidays. Some even going so far to say they can’t wait until the season is over! We’re trying way too hard and missing the joy and the beauty of it all because we try to do it all; the cleaning, the cooking, the planning, the wrapping, not to mention the organizing of an untold amount of parish Christmas events all by ourselves. I don’t know how we came up with idea that being a good Catholic means we can’t ask for help or can’t use a store bought pie crust, but I know it’s true because I’ve fallen prey to this approach myself. I want to give till it hurts and end up hampering the entire holiday experience.
A story my cousin shared with me a few years ago, helped snap me back to reality and has now become a treasure that I pass on to other frazzled folks trying to be some sort of super Christmas Catholic. This happened when my cousin’s four children were still in grade school. It was Christmas time and she was juggling a number of activities and trying to keep up. One morning as she was getting the kids ready for school, her youngest son asked if Mom had baked a treat for his class goodie day. A wave of guilt and frustration came over my cousin when she realized she had completely forgotten to make a batch of cookies. But then as she was packing the last lunch, she glanced over at the pantry. She had a flash of genius as she noticed a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls sitting there staring back at her. Since it was Christmas time and she at some point was planning on eventually getting around to the baking, she also happened to have icing, sprinkles, and all the fixings for cookie decorating on hand. Eureka! After a few short minutes with green icing, red candies, and powdered sugar she had a plate of what looked like those fancy, pretty as a picture, Yule logs you buy at the bakery. My cousin’s no fuss Yule logs became the most popular item for goodie day. Everyone was happy, especially my cousin because the simple but special treats, which became a tradition, meant less stress and more family time.
Now I am not saying we shouldn’t try and do our best for our loved ones. I enjoyed homemade meals and baked goods as much as the next person. And especially as a full-blooded Italian American, any relative of mine would be quickly cut from the will or worse if they dared to use tomato sauce from a jar. But, we do need to get back to reality. We’re supposed to be experience tidings of great joy instead of tidal waves of great stress. Asking for help and applying moderation during this very sacred time of year can help us enjoy the moment and more importantly get closer to God and to each other. So, please pass the Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and have yourself a very Merry Christmas!