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A simpler Christmas that we can choose to enjoy

It may not look a lot like Christmas, but if you’ve been out doing any last-minute shopping you’ll know just how close we are to the big day. That increased level of stress is also a sure reminder, and an ironic juxtaposition to what should be the most enjoyable and relaxing time of year … if not for the pandemic, of course.

Instead, we typically stress over what to buy, stress over going to the mall, stress over overspending, stress over dinner plans, stress over overeating … and on and on. This year, we’re stressing over all the things we can’t do because of health concerns, which are yet another layer of worry, albeit one that’s been with us for most of the year.

Given the expenses associated with Christmas, it’s no surprise that money ranks right up there with big stresses of the season. In fact, a new poll finds that many of us say that our financial situation is causing them to feel more stress this year than last year – part of the economic woes associated with the pandemic.

That may be why a survey for the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) found 29 per cent of Canadians plan to spend a bit less this holiday season, though the average will be up to $588, up $5 from last year at this time.

One holiday tradition certainly off the table is travelling to gather in larger groups. The same survey found we’re likely to avoid travel during the holiday season as one-third do not plan to spend anything on travel and an additional 38 per cent plan to spend less than $200. In terms of money spent entertaining, 13 per cent of respondents plan to spend nothing at all this year, a sizeable part of the 59 per cent of respondents who plan to spend less than $200.

Facts like that can easily put a damper on Christmas celebrations, much more so than the lack of snow on the ground. Some of us, like Bing Crosby, may be dreaming of that ‘White Christmas,’ but that picture-postcard moment is likely to elude us this year.

Nonetheless, it’s still the season to be jolly. If it’s any consolation, snow is a rarity, if it ever shows up at all, in a good chunk of the world that celebrates the significance of December 25 – a white Christmas is only the stuff of movies and songs.

Best to look at the upside of Christmas, with all the joy and fellowship it brings. For many of us, Christmas is a collection of childhood memories augmented with idyllic pictures of Victorian scenes or images straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Or perhaps the vision runs to the mood evoked by such classics as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street or Holiday Inn.

For those so blessed, Christmas was and is a carefree time.

The goal, after all, should be to recapture some of that zest, that anticipation and wonder that came with the Christmases of youth. At the same time, there is the need for an adult appreciation of what a timeout from the “real world” can mean for the soul.

It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping, the dinner preparations, the running around, and a host of other complications, but if there was ever a time for simplifying things and seeing the world through less-jaded eyes, it is now.

If the Christmas spirit is on the wane today, it’s because we let business, stress and political correctness intrude on the holiday – much as they do on our lives as we progress from childhood into adulthood.

Given the current situation, this year is a good opportunity to hit the reset on over-the-top holiday preparations – and the stress and financial turmoil that come with them – in favour of recalling simplicity of the season’s message, something many of us talk about but seldom act upon.

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