The holidays are upon us! The arrival of December heralds what for many is the busiest and most stressful time of the year.
Women especially take on a lot of extra work to make the holiday bright for their families—shopping for gifts, cooking big holiday meals, hosting parties and drop-ins, sending cards, decorating the house...it’s exhausting just thinking about them. Part of me has always wondered if the impulse to put oneself through all this holiday hullabaloo is associated with the innate gatherer instinct passed down through our genes over thousands of years. All the shopping, cooking, baking and decorating always make me feel like I’m preparing my cave for a long winter.
My husband and I currently enjoy a child-free home. Part of me celebrates that I get to relegate most of the traditional holiday activities to the rest of the family, while another part mourns that I don’t have to take on those responsibilities myself. Without children in the house, I don’t feel any strong need to make every Christmas “the best Christmas ever.” I don’t feel the need to fill the house with pine needles and clove-covered oranges and candy canes. We have a sparsely decorated five-foot fake tree, but the only gifts under it are usually for the cat.
So what is it about Christmas that makes me want to jump into the festooned fray, even though I’ve been campaigning for more simple holidays with my family? Have I succumbed to the commercialization and commodification of the holiday spirit? Am I associating gifts and extravagant meals and reindeer-shaped candle holders with the warm and fuzzy nostalgia I’ll never recapture from my youth?
It made me fear for the future. Will I one day insist on stringing popcorn garlands with the children in an effort to provide them with happy memories patterned after idyllic scenes from TV commercials and Christmas specials, even though all the kids want to do is play video games? Is Bing Crosby’s crooning going to be the background music of their holiday nightmares? Will my kids grow up to perpetuate a false sense of happiness by associating enforced family time based on what I made them do in some misguided effort to be good parents themselves?
The answer came to me after a tall glass of merlot and a smack to the side of the head: No. I will not buy into the idea that more gifts equal a better Christmas. I am not a bad person because I don’t do any Christmas baking or decorating. I will not compare my family and social life to the ones on TV, and berate myself for not providing the same festive cheer and ambiance well-dressed and sober party hosts do.
I will, however, remember that the holidays are a time to appreciate time spent with family and friends. I will treat the holidays as an end-of-year celebration that gives us an opportunity to give thanks for what we have, think about the less fortunate and give back where we can.
And if I can just manage those little things each and every year, I think it’ll be the best Christmas ever.
If you could drop one holiday tradition, what would it be? No more shopping for Christmas gifts? No more huge family dinners? A ban on all Christmas music played before Thanksgiving?
Let me know in the comments below!