September 17, 2020 5 min read 1 Comment

We all have them…you know you do. The unwritten rules on how to celebrate Christmas. Some of them come from outside sources. It’s like not wearing white after Labor Day. They’re things we’re taught to do to be in compliance with social norms and standards. For example:

  • You can’t put up your decorations until after Thanksgiving?!? (No disrespect Thanksgiving, but I believe you can co-exist with Christmas!)
  • Don’t listen to Christmas music except in December?!? (If we’re only supposed to listen to Christmas music in December, why are there radio app stations that play it all-year-long?!?)
  • Make sure all decorations are down by the New Year holiday?!? (The Three Kings didn’t even arrive at the manger until 12 days after Christmas, so why can’t decorations stay up until January 6th for Three Kings Day?!?)

Who made up these rules?!? Why do we let others put limits on how and when we express our JOY?!? But, even worse, why do we do that to ourselves?!?

You know you have them. Your own unwritten rules for what must be accomplished to mark your annual holidays as a success. These are the things we think we need to make Christmas memories JOYous , but in reality, often times these things just add stress to the holiday season…you know what I’m talking about

  • How many hours of planning and preparation do you put into cooking the main Christmas dinner?
  • How many different outfits do you try on to coordinate for pictures, Christmas cards or church services?
  • Do you beat yourself up if the Christmas cards don’t go out on a certain day?

There are traditions to be upheld ( I LOVE traditions, but they should give you warm fuzzies not knots in your stomach) and standards to be met. Each Christmas must be bigger and better. But, this year, I want you to ask yourself a question. What if, just this once, we throw out all the rules?!?

Now, I’m not proposing Christmas anarchy…ok, maybe I am, but hear me out. The reality is the COVID-19 pandemic will probably inhibit our ability to do things the way we’ve always done them. That doesn’t mean Christmas can’t be as wonderful as ever…it just means it has to be different. We must step back and look at how we approach it. This year, you may need to redefine success.

We are craving JOY now more than any other time I can remember, so why not find it where we can. I know, I know, there are rules for a reason, but sometimes, just sometimes, maybe some rules are made to be broken…just this once.

Maybe you’re one of the rare breed that actually finds JOY by following all the rules and living up to almost unattainable standards…if that brings you JOY in these crazy times, then you keep doing you. But, if you find some of the hype with the holidays to be stressful…I’m giving you permission to break the rules this year (not sure what authority I have to do that, but I don’t know who had any authority to make the rules to begin with…so if you need permission to be free to find your JOY, I’m giving it to you)!!

Breaking the rules make you uncomfortable? Maybe we could start with just bending them a little. How could you start finding JOY earlier this year??

My mom started me thinking about this concept last year, because she took down her decorations, but she left her tree up. She likes plugging it in and enjoying the twinkling lights in the morning while she has coffee and quiet time. It makes her happy, so after 69 years on this Earth, she decided she didn’t have to do everything by the rules. So, last weekend, my mother-in-law and I started turning it into a gratitude tree. (Yes, my mother-in-law helped me surprise my mom…it’s how we roll!)


We started with fall ribbon and harvest-themed décor. My mom loves Thanksgiving, but she’s not a huge Halloween fan, so this was right for her, but maybe you want to do Halloween and then transition to fall or Christmas…guess what…I don’t care as long as it brings you JOY! Research has shown that being intentional with gratitude and finding things to be thankful for in the midst of hardship can help pull you through challenges. So, use Thanksgiving as a springboard to happiness! We’re not through with this tree. We’re going to add pictures of our family, because we know how thankful Mom is for all of us! We’re also going to add thankful leaves on which we write one thing we’re thankful for. If you can do two or three a day, your tree, and your heart, will be overflowing with gratitude before the holidays even arrive!

 Here’s another rule that I think was meant to be broken…Christmas cards. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to the mailbox and finding cards with great family photos, meaningful messages or update letters on all the exciting events of the year, but why is Christmas the only time we can do that? I mean in the middle of shopping and wrapping and decorating and baking and traveling and cleaning house to be ready for guests and participating in church events of the season, who really has extra hours to put together Christmas cards?? I am notorious for sending New Year’s letters…I say it’s because Christmas with our family always makes for some good stories, but in reality, I’m just a procrastinator. I don’t get everything done by December 25th, so I extend the season a little. I have also been known to send Valentine’s greetings, and I’m considering a Thanksgiving card this year just to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for…especially my family and friends.

The bottom line is this. We don’t tell stories about the gifts we get every year or the clothes we wore. We tell stories about the time we spent with family…the mishaps and messes…the food and fellowship…the experiences and the surprises we pulled off for others. So, maybe we should take a lesson from Whoville…


 Nothing can stop the JOY of the season if we don’t let it. So, protect it for all you’re worth…even if you have to break a few rules to do it. I’d love to hear from you with some ideas on how you’re planning to break the rules this year, so drop a comment or send me a message to help me out!

1 Response


September 19, 2020

I LOVE this . . . And I knew I loved your Mom! I have already worn one of my Christmas t-shirts and I am going to put up some decorations this weekend!

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