A CALM CHRISTMAS by Beth Kempton
This is a book about Christmas. But it’s also a book about belonging, connection, self-care, joy and ordinary magic.
Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year offers inspiration for a new kind of holiday season – one where you radiate calm and cultivate delight. Spanning late November to early January, Calm Christmas embraces the festive build-up, the celebrations and the turn of the year in a holistic, nurturing way. Beth Kempton will whisk you away from the frenetic energy of the high street and invite you to come sit awhile by the fire, pausing to explore what a more mindful festive season could mean for you.
Full of personal stories, tips and advice for slowing down, staying calm and connecting with others, it offers a welcome retreat from the pressure to create ‘the perfect Christmas’.
At its heart Calm Christmas is about a book about wellbeing in winter, which will encourage you to use this time of natural hibernation to germinate new dreams and nurture a beautiful life in the year ahead. Instead of entering January exhausted, further in debt, and already regretting broken resolutions, you will begin the New Year with precious memories, feeling rested, rejuvenated and inspired.
This atmospheric book will lead you through the darkness of winter, back to the enchantment of an authentic and meaningful Christmas and New Year. from Goodreads.
Is there a book that calls out to more people for 2020’s Christmas than Calm Christmas? Beth Kempton’s book actually debuted in 2019 but its relevancy could not be higher as we head into our first Christmas in a pandemic.
I must admit, I nearly stopped reading during the introduction. Entitled, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?” the author explains that she had high expectations for welcoming her first child a few weeks before Christmas. Her plan was to give birth (at home) then blissfully sit around a beautifully decorated home and sipping mulled wine holding her newborn. However, her daughter arrived late, Christmas Day to be precise, and ruined all her plans. Whether you are a parent or not, these stories are annoying. The sentence, “One by one, our dreams vanished as we edged closer to December 23, when the doctors would insist on inducing,” made me, frankly, furious. Perhaps this is one of the special things siblings of people with disabilities know, having a healthy child is not a guarantee. Having a baby on time, in a home birth, and then getting your home ready for the holidays with guests etc? That’s just asinine.
Still, I forged onward. I am glad that I did. Kempton’s advice on how to decide who, and what, is important to you on the holidays and tips on how to achieve that are simple, eloquent, and easy to follow. She walks the reader through the five stories of Christmas; faith, magic, connection, abundance, and heritage and asks you to figure out where your excitement of Christmas begins and belongs. Then, with each story in mind, she works through how to prioritize that which is important to you and your loved ones this Christmas.
My absolutely favorite portion of the book is Chapter 5: Heart and Home. Full of tips on how to decorate simply, cook meaningful meals, and decide how to celebrate together this chapter is applicable this year but would be just as good to revisit in years without COVID. Unlike other chapters where consumption of foods or abundance of gifts is problematic, this chapter challenges the reader to make their homes filled with simple joy This year, we will all either be having hard conversations about not coming home or figuring out how to see each other safely without falling victim to Zoom fatigue.
“Time-honored traditions are only worth maintaining if they honor your time and bring you pleasure.”Beth Kempton, Calm Christmas
Underneath all of these expectations is the idea that we cannot interrupt “tradition.” Everyone keeps saying, “but we always go to ________________” and “it wouldn’t be Christmas without _________________.” But, realistically, some traditions are so powerful and simple that we do them without thinking. Others are so exhausting yet we march through them year after year so we don’t “ruin the holidays.” This book encourages you to notice the simple and abandon the exhausting. And I am here for it.
I can’t help but think that this Christmas there will be even more people who are needing help, hungry, or have seats at their table that will never be full again. Calm Christmas‘s chapter on “Dealing with Sadness, Loss, and Loneliness,” ranged from advice how to combat the holidays alone to how to deal with your holidays after loss. I especially appreciated the advice on how to help someone else with loneliness or the loss of a loved one. I don’t feel like anyone really teaches this skill. In fact, throughout the book, the author shared essential tips on both how to ask for and how to offer help in many different ways. Both skills are vitally important for each of us to learn not just for the holidays, but for life.
The one part of the book I did not enjoy were the anecdotes. Like the memories of her daughters birth, they added little to the lessons she was imparting. Instead, they showcased memories from the author’s childhood and adult life that felt….disingenuously perfect. Whether re-telling of a pre-dawn excursion with her father to see a deeror an idyllic day doing nothing but wandering, meeting with a friend for coffee, and returning home to her husband and daughters, each memory is wonderfully mindful, absolutely present, and typically emphasizes the author’s love of nature. I understand that she is trying to emphasize that her memories are full of small moments, mostly free, instead of the big gifts that have made Christmas a commercial success. Instead, each one felt like a humblebrag. The best story she shared was of her daughter’s first birthday, which was also Christmas, and how many mistakes they made having a huge plastic-filled celebration. Oddly, unlike all of her other annecdotes, this one was not italicized, almost as if the author didn’t want to bring attention to it.
Anecdotes aside, Calm Christmas is full of advice on how to avoid spreading ourselves too thin this holiday. If you, like so many people, have struggled with how match your vision of a wonderful Christmas with reality, this book is an amazing place to start. That is, unless, your vision happens to be more extravagant. In that case, I recommend watching Christmas Vacation and just following Clark Gizwold’s plan.
Tell me, please! Do you need help planning a calmer Christmas?