How to Have a Christmas of Blessing, Not Impressing

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” sing Clark and Ellen as their station wagon zooms down a freshly plowed highway. Russ and Audrey roll their eyes in the back seat. The search for the perfect Christmas tree is about to begin.

I make some hot chocolate, and once more my husband, kids, and I settle in to watch our favorite funny holiday movie, Christmas Vacation. It’s dated, it’s silly, and sometimes it’s inappropriate, but year after year we follow along as the Griswolds make their way through December. We laugh until our sides hurt as Clark cuts the rope binding the Christmas tree (“Little full. Lot of sap.”), pours egg nog for Cousin Eddie into a moose-shaped mug (“Drive you out into the middle of nowhere, leave you for dead?”), and investigates the noise in the living room (“Squirrel!!”). If you’ve watched Christmas Vacation over the years, I’ll bet you have your favorite lines, too.

Of all the heart-warming Christmas movies available, all the beautiful musicals, all the rollicking comedies, why does this one endure? Why do we watch it over and over? Clark Griswold is a farcical character, so why do we identify with him so enduringly?

I think it’s because we’ve all been there. In our sometimes crazy-busy lives, who among us hasn’t aspired to create the perfect Christmas?

Who hasn’t tried to create a lasting memory by tracking down the perfect tree? Or attempted a stunning lightscape in the front yard? Or labored to plan the merriest holiday party? Or slaved to cook the most toothsome holiday meal?

We have good intentions. We want to make the holidays memorable for our families. And everywhere we look, we find inspiration. With all the magazines we read, the blogs we peruse, the Pinterest boards we scour, and the Instagram photos we scroll through, we’ve convinced ourselves that every element of the perfect holiday should be within our grasp.

This blogger has a different tree in every room of her home, each one decorated with a particular theme.

That Instagrammer boasts the most beautiful front-door wreath and garland we’ve ever seen.

One magazine features the six most elegant holiday desserts ever created, while another provides recipes for ten kinds of homemade candy that we simply must try.

We start with good intentions, and we work hard to create something special. But as we collect more and more inspiration, our plans for Christmas have enlarged to include more, more, more.

Somehow we imagine that we can take the best elements of everyone else’s holiday plans and combine them into one stupendous effort. Clark Griswold called it a “fun old-fashioned family Christmas.” These days I have my own term for it. I call it the Mythical Composite Christmas.


Many years ago my husband told me that I was constantly comparing myself to everyone around me. He said, “You choose the best attribute of everyone you meet, and you assume you should share that attribute. You’ve created for yourself a Mythical Composite Woman made up of all those attributes, and that’s who you think you should be.”

I struggled with comparison for so long that I finally wrote a book about my journey of wrestling with it. InterVarsity Press published the book, called Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison. Finally, after many years of comparing myself to others, I’m finding freedom.

Richella Parham
Richella Parham
Richella Parham is mom to three young adult sons and has been married to her college sweetheart for 32 years. Part of the Renovaré Ministry Team, she is an author, speaker and blogger. You can connect with her on her blog,, or on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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