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.


  1. Amen! This post needs to be widely shared. I haven’t totally even been in the spirit this year, but have no fear – it always finds me. I keep wanting to pack it all in and make it perfect but when I stopped and listened the other day, I realized that Scarlet didn’t even want to go to the frigid tree lighting in town. And I wasn’t going to force it. So I grabbed my sister and just the two of us went. Scarlet stayed home and watched the Grinch. We all felt joy, but not how I had originally pictured it going down.
    Tamara recently posted..Invisible Mama.My Profile

  2. I love this so much. You are right. It is all about what brings joy into the season. Such a great way to think about it.

  3. I agree with Tamara. This post SO needs to be shared. Because that’s really it. Do what makes you feel good and your family fee good and your friends feel good. Maybe that means going big – or maybe that means scaling back. Or maybe some combination of the 2.
    Ilene recently posted..The BridgeMy Profile

  4. It’s a whirlwind only if we make it so. There are things we always like to do, lights to gawk at, parties to attend, places to go. The best thing is the time I’ll be home, and the possibility to do any of these things, but not all. And also to go to the park for disc golf or do nothing at all but put on an X-men movie and grab a blanket on the couch and turn on the tree lights and not worry if it’s 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. when we finally decide to have lunch.

    There’s joy, right there.
    Eli@coachdaddy recently posted..Guest Post: Toby of Dumbass News is My Maine ManMy Profile

  5. Awesome awesome point! We get too tied up in what we feel are “obligatory” holiday things and forget to do the things that actually make our hearts happy!
    tori nelson recently posted..Brown Baby JesusMy Profile

  6. I love this post Tricia and you are absolutely right – go for the joy. I definitely think that’s probably the main reason this holiday season feels hurried and stressful and less than enjoyable. Because you’re right – when you go for the joy, joy follows and creates more joy.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Mick vs. Kelly: 2013 Billabong Pipe MastersMy Profile

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