How to Neighbor During the Christmas Season
The Christmas “season” spans a length of time that seems to change depending on whom you are talking to. We all know the people who love the fact that lights and decorations go up, and Christmas music about Jesus’ birth and sleigh rides begins well before that “other” holiday near the end of November. There are those who are okay with the reds and greens of Christmas living alongside the oranges and browns of fall and Thanksgiving. To some, this seems right. It gets them in the spirit early!
Others, though, see the Christmas season beginning the day after Thanksgiving, or at least the following week, but most definitely by December 1. And it may not end until the kids go back to school after the new year. Yes, there are some who see it going on into the first week of January! If only our birthday celebrations were that long!
Nevertheless, if we can agree on one thing, it may be this: even if the season is simply the month of December, there are still a lot of days we call the Christmas season! 31 to be exact. And a lot can be done in 31 days—they say even bad habits can be broken in that amount of time!
What truly is the longest holiday season of the year always seems to not have enough days in it to do the things we need to do! We seem to get all stressed out when we look at our written lists along with the new thoughts of things we need to do that pop up during the season. Some of us get so stressed out when we think about the little time we have compared to the things we need to do that we feel like we’re going to lose our focus on Christmas!
If you are getting stressed just reading this, take a few deep breaths and a moment to evaluate our normal season activities and stresses and carefully explore what could make a difference in this year’s Christmas season experience. Let’s explore adding something.
How about scheduling something into the month that brings joy, conversations, relationship-building, growth, and understanding? How about entertaining a few neighbors in our home one evening or weekend afternoon? Some of you might feel stressed out again, and if that’s true, I hope you will read on to see how easy it can be to host a holiday party in your neighborhood.
This idea is not new. Many of us have hosted or attended a Christmas party during the holiday season and have seen a lot of good come from them. Sometimes, we have made new acquaintances with neighbors we’ve never talked to before. Or we have strengthened existing relationships with simply an hour or more of casual conversation.
Even if we host a party and we don't have the number of people we hoped would show up, there are a lot of positives that could come out of our gathering. Any step in the direction of loving our neighbors and showing hospitality seems like a huge step for some of our neighbors. Some of us will be revered and admired just because we desired to get to know our neighbors and we took a bit of initiative to make it happen. And, in some cases, the simple act of offering this kind of invitation goes a long way toward developing future friendships in our neighborhoods. A simple invitation to a holiday gathering has the potential to transform our neighborhoods.
So, there are several ways this can happen to make it not seem as daunting as some of us may think. Here are some examples.
Make It Easy
Ask everyone to bring some sort of food to the party and give them ideas: appetizers of any kind, cheese and crackers, warm crock-pot finger foods, dips and chips, bread, and desserts. Then, prepare something ahead of time from each of these to get the party started. This way you are not doing all the cooking and others feel more like this is their party and not “your” party. Welcome any ethnic foods by stating so on your invitation.
Keep the Invitation Simple
Keeping the invitation simple will send a message that this party is going to be a casual, conversational experience, not a formal, dress-your-best, and be-on-your-best-behavior event. The more we present something like this in a casual, friendly way, the more apt people are to consider it.
Lastly, hand-deliver the invitations to your neighbors’ houses face-to-face and invite them at their front door. If they don’t answer the door, try again later that day, and if that doesn’t work, place the invitation somewhere at their door where they will see it. Also, you can call it a “Come and Go” or something similar so people can know they have a way of escape if needed. Most of all, deliver a message of love and acceptance with eagerness to get to know them.
Remember It’s About the Home, Not the House
Gatherings like this will be so much better for our health and happiness if we can lay aside some of the stressors or hang-ups we tend to place on ourselves when we consider inviting people into our homes. Let’s consider these ideas as we look at hosting in our homes.
The Christmas season, and any holiday for that matter, are great opportunities to live out our Christian faith at many levels and in many ways, providing an opportunity to gather at times when people are expecting to gather with friends and family. It is a natural, rhythmic time to get together in many minds, so let’s all consider how we can participate in this way!
- Let’s not worry about the size or layout of our houses—whether it’s big enough or whether the spaces are just right. In contrast, let’s focus on the hospitality that’s felt in our home.
- Don’t stress over the cleanliness of the house but focus on the pure love for our neighbors that they will feel in our home.
- Let’s not get hung up over the quality or quantity of the food that is offered or brought but focus more on the atmosphere of fellowship our neighbors will walk away with.
Other Ways We Can Neighbor this Holiday Season
- If you get an invitation from another neighbor, go! Let’s do our best to do what we are asking others to do.
- Pick a nice December day and do something outside! Hot dogs, hamburgers, hot chocolate, and s’mores will cause our neighbors to stop for an afternoon and forget about all we “need” to do this month.
- Simplify with a coffee and dessert evening. Less work and sweeter!