Go for joy


On the morning of December first, my daughter stopped halfway down the stairs and let out a little squeal.

“The elf! Look at him! What’s his name again?”

our elf on a shelf

Charlie. Where he normally finds himself. On a shelf.

As soon as we had properly marveled at his magical handiwork (and reminded her of the name she chose for him 2 years ago), she flew to our Advent calendar to open its first treasure.

And it was official. The holidays had begun.

Since that day, every morning has involved an elf-hunt and more time at the advent calendar. We talk over breakfast of the events coming up during our holiday season while the dance of the sugar plum fairies plays in the background. Baking cookies. Shopping for gifts. Seeing the Nutcracker. Our upcoming, first annual, Party at the North Pole (photos and stories to come). It’s busy, but not too busy. Full in a just-right kind of way.

It’s simple. But also not simple. Because hosting more than a dozen pajama-clad little girls and serving them cookies and hot cocoa is not exactly simple. It’s full-on, cannonballing into the holiday season. But also, not. Because surely if you cannonball into the season you visit Santa, make barrels of ornaments, concoct fantastic scenes around your elf, and line up an overly impressive haul of presents to sit under your tree.

Surely. Right?

I’ve seen this year’s crazy elf antics. And I’ve seen the pleas for simplicity. I’ve seen the ridiculously awesome homemade ornaments and cookie recipes and wacky line up of events. And I’ve seen the calls for limiting the number of events, culling it back, the almost begging that we not go crazy.

And I can’t help feeling that neither is quite right.

Because neither really brings the magic. And neither makes me feel joy.

do what brings you joy

The reason that our holiday season feels right this year is not because we’ve packed it chock full of every tradition imaginable (we haven’t). It’s not because I spend hours posing our elf in crazy situations each night (I don’t). But it’s also not because I’ve removed a single tradition from our list. It’s not because I’ve reduced or removed.

It’s because this year, as with every year, I focus on the joy.

Making cookies brings me joy. Setting or elf on a new shelf each night and, on occasion, getting a little creative with it (aka watching my husband make and affix elf to a paper airplane) brings me joy. Planning a party at which my daughter and her friends will make food for reindeer and make holiday ornaments and will literally light up at the idea of Santa and magic and elves and holiday mysteries, that brings me joy. Going to the nutcracker with my daughter in the middle of the season’s first winter storm, oh my goodness the joy.

elf on a plane

Posing my elf over the toilet with a fishing pole would not bring me joy. I’d worry all night and all day that the little guy would fall in and then where would we be? Making a half dozen different kinds of Christmas cookies and aiming specifically for a yield in the hundreds would not bring me joy. I don’t like math that much. At all.

So, here, we do what brings us joy.

Because that’s what it’s about. My joy creates their joy. And their joy is it. It’s the point of it all, for me.

This holiday season, don’t go simple. Don’t go overboard.

Just go for joy.


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