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Have you ever felt that your Christmas has never met your expectations? Andrea Bear considers what it means to have an “imperfect Christmas.”

Every year I find myself with an internal conflict over the celebration and preparation of Christmas. There seems to be this pressure to create the “perfect holiday season” and society certainly plays into this. The day after Thanksgiving my kids are eager to pull out all the Advent and Christmas decorations to bedazzle our home in colors of red and green so we don’t wait till the last minute. The HOA urges the neighbors to compete in holiday light shows, while department store ads encourage the more decorated your homes and the more presents under the tree, will make you the most accomplished at pulling off the perfect season.

If we do all these things, this will make us happy and fulfilled, and it will bring the most joy to our world. Achieving this feat can seem impossible when you focus on whose house should host or how the perfect tablescape should look -- even more so when a family tradition changes or doesn’t meet the expectations of years prior.

But what happens when the tinsel and the stockings aren’t enough? How do we achieve the perfect Christmas when the decorations or presents just don’t seem to cover up death, loneliness, job loss, divorce, family fights, estrangement, or even addiction?

How do we navigate this so-called merry and magical time that commercials and movies convey?


sad woman at Christmas dinner


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What happens when the tinsel and the stockings aren’t enough? #catholicmom

As I approach my 43rd celebration of Christmas, my expectations of this coming season have changed -- and for good reason. How did this come about? Probably from some very imperfect Christmases.

  • Last year our family was sick with Covid-19 on Christmas Day and we could not get together with extended family.
  • My mother’s passing three years before left a void like no other.
  • Last year my dad broke his leg and was in a rehabilitation facility during the pandemic and could not have any visitors, even on Christmas Day.
  • Extended family members have grown and moved on, and traditions from years past no longer exist.

But even all of this has not changed my expectations of what makes Christmas imperfect. If I truly want to look at what has changed me the most, I need to look at the very first Christmas.

Jesus was born into poverty: no tinsel, no holiday wreaths; instead, an animal trough as a bassinet. Instead of the aromas of holiday baking and cinnamon, Mary and Joseph were surrounded by the smell of barn and livestock. There was no tree or chimney to hang their stockings. The only holiday light show was the star of Bethlehem, and their only family were strangers from neighboring fields with sheep or knowledge of the stars.

Jesus’ imperfect entry into the world created more joy, more fulfillment, and so much wonder that it exceeds all other Christmases from then on.


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So when I think of the first Advent and Christmas, I can remember that my expectations have already been met and I try to sift through all the distraction to get to the heart of this season.

How can you draw on the imperfections of the first Christmas to help meet your expectations?

Copyright 2021 Andrea Bear
Images: Canva Pro