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by Anne Breck Peterson

Today is the birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. It is also the birthday of yours truly. I’ve always wondered if Beethoven made his family hold off on all the Christmas decorations until his birthday had been properly celebrated, in the way that I did when I was younger. Now that I am so terribly mature, I get my tree up early and enjoy all the festive hangings which seem to go up before we’ve had a taste of our Thanksgiving turkeys.

Hundreds of years ago when my two daughters were little and I was working at All Saints full-time, I found myself totally overwhelmed during the Advent season. There were so many people to get presents for. My husband and I were on a limited budget. This led to my making presents for people, in addition to preparing the meals, making the cookies, etc. A friend on the Steering Committee of the Women’s Council, Cathy Clement (whose birthday happens to be December 14) and I offered a workshop for other beleaguered women based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. The book encouraged us to choose the things we really enjoyed doing and to give up some things we didn’t so much enjoy. I chose to stop making Christmas cookies. My family was appalled, but they got over it, and, eventually, we all lived a little happier ever after.

This season of preparation encourages us to find joy, love and generosity in the things we do, and peace with the things we choose not to do. Put on some of Beethoven’s stirring music. Empowered by these gorgeous sounds, review your to-do list to see which of the ones that make you feel anxious could be eliminated—or assigned to someone else who might actually enjoy them. And may you live in the joy of this holy, happy, crazy season.