Growing up, I can think of at least a few Christmases that I felt disappointed. All the presents had been given out and unwrapped, and I would look around the room, as if to say “thats it?”  Sounds selfish, I know.  But it was never that I didn’t feel grateful for what I was given, or that I was expecting some expensive piece of clothing or technology that my parents couldn’t afford.  Rather, it was that after a month of hype–shopping, wrapping presents, baking, preparing–it was all over.

This past week, I have been talking about how I want to let go of some of the hype, the expectation that Christmas brings–not so I can say “Bah! Humbug,” but rather in hopes of experiencing less stress and more of the actual Christmas Spirit. It is my hope that through doing this, I will actually be able to savor the holiday, rather than just trying to survive it.  In order to do this, I feel I have to start by making sure that I define what is important to me at Christmas time, so as holiday opportunities arise, I can measure them against my true “season must haves.”

So today, I want to share with you what my husband and I are not letting go of this Christmas–what we want to most celebrate. Some may be obvious, yet I think there are times when we take them for granted.

Here are Our Christmas Non-negotiables:

Family:  With both of our families being out of state, my husband and I really appreciate when we can get home to be with family. We don’t need to do anything extravagant with them–its actually the really simple things that mean the most (like when we’re having a meal together, playing a game, or just catching up over our morning coffee). There is something very powerful about being seen and loved by those who share our blood, last name, and longest memories.

Friends: Living far from our families, there are friends here in Pennsylvania who have become our family. Whether over a cup of coffee (yeah, me and my coffee!), having them over for dinner, or seeing them at a Christmas party–time with friends around this Season and all year round, is really important.

Giving: It is needed and important all year round, but as we celebrate a Holiday that our culture has made more and more about getting, we are finding it increasingly important to do the opposite. It is in our giving–not our receiving–that we are reminded of how much we are so blessed already. We are still figuring out what giving looks like for us this year, but we know want this to be an important part. (I will post with an update)

A Desire to be Spiritually aware: It may sound new-age, but I am not talking about crystals or ghosts of Christmas past. Rather, we want to remember that the reason we celebrate Christmas is because Jesus came to Earth to literally give up His life for us. It is because of His gift that we give gifts at Christmas. It’s because of His gift, that we are able to experience hope even in our darkest times. And, it’s because of His gift, that we are able to give to others.  We want to be aware of these things as we enter the Christmas Season, not what sales or deals we can take advantage of at the mall.

What are your Christmas Non-negotiables?