There’s a ‘Christmas in July’ trend. From retail sales to themed summer parties, we may have finally arrived at the Christmas season lasting all year long.
When I’ve seen or heard the expression this month, I’ve remembered a few interviews I had last Christmas. Interviews where we talked about making changes from traditions and difficult conversations that really should happen in July. Yet when July is in full swing we’re thinking about the pool and camping. We’re not usually thinking about talking about Christmas. Since we likely didn’t put this on our calendars, here’s my reminder to all of us: July is a time to have hard conversations.
Now is the time to talk with your people (likely those you live with and those you are related to) about how you want Christmas to be different this year. Whether budget or schedule or travel plans, starting the conversation now will likely lower tensions in December.
July gives people time. We are exactly 150 days away from Christmas. If expectations need to be adjusted, if you know people will not take the news well, they have five months to adjust to the new Christmas reality. From feelings to plans, this is the month to gently bring up what you may have wanted to blurt out last December. The spending is too much, the travel is too exhausting, or the schedule is too full.
If the thought of these conversations makes you cringe, a few reminders from my book Loving My Actual Christmas that may help as you approach those you do Christmas with:
Believe the best in the other person. Even if it drives you crazy that she insists on buying your kids 1,001 gifts or that he always wants to host Christmas at his house, know these desires are likely coming from a well meaning motive. Go into any conversation remembering what you appreciate about the other person.
Kindness always makes conversations better. There are ways to set up boundaries that feel harsh and ways that feel not-so-harsh. Avoid extreme or accusatory language. “You always” or “I never”. These set up a you-against-them paradigm. “No thank you” or “Not this year” comes off much better than “Over my dead body”. Just a little reminder of the obvious.
Christmas is about grace. Why do we do the crazy-making that is Christmas in the first place? We are celebrating God’s arrival to be with us. His desire to love us, speak to us, and ultimately offer us grace, is found in Jesus. Christmas is about the arrival of grace. When we remember the grace we’ve been extended, it’s much easier to extend a little toward those around us.
So go ahead and start the conversation now. Your December self will thank your July self. I promise.
If you are interested in learning more about how to be intentional about your Christmas season so you look forward to it (at least a little), Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season is my best resource on the subject. There are things you can do now that will help you set the season up for success.