Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All I Do For Christmas

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!


Unknown said...

We have actually stopped the big Christmas dinners. Now that my mom and dad are both gone, and myself and two other siblings do not have any children, we feel that our Christmas should just be spent with one another and not allt he hassels. We get togehter on Christmas Eve, my oldest niece comes out to my oldest brothers house, we all gather there, have pizza and chicken wings or what ever we feel like and have a good time. It is sometimes not without out it's little trials. But the point is we are together and that is all that counts.

Sonya Heaney said...

We have to do it twice – the 25th of December and then the 6th-7th of January (as we celebrate Ukrainian Christmas according to the old calendar)!
However I really love Christmas. Things like wrapping presents and decorating aren’t chores for me.
I don’t have kids (and have no plans for them, ever), so I can’t lie – I just like doing it!

Kristina Mathews said...

I would love to avoid the shopping. My kids are older now, 10 and 14 and they already have pretty much everything they need. Except for new clothes and shoes, but who wants to get that under the tree. So I have absolutely no idea what to get them this year.

I do need a tree. And the big family dinner. Easy for me to say, I just have to show up. We go to my husband's Aunt's hous in the Bay Area. There are enough people that they have to rent tables and heaters for the garage. We sing the 12 Days of Christmas and say Grace. There is usually a Hannakuh component because one cousin married into a Jewish family. I make chocolate truffles, the winemaker cousin brings his wine, kids have fun with their cousins. It's all good.

Snookie said...

We don't have the big family dinners anymore, mostly because we're scattered! I think I've become a scrooge over the last few years. I like having a tree and decorations, but don't like putting the effort into making it happen. Last year we had a tree with lights and no ornaments because that is as far as we got! What I really like is visiting with family, the phone calls that come in from family scattered to the winds and the giving of gifts (though I hate shopping for them)! We used to make a big deal out of it when my son was younger, but now that he's older, we just do family things.

linda s said...

I don't do Christmas alone. From decorating to baking to the big holiday meals my house is bursting with family and friends big and small who want to help all through the month of December. I feel a bit like Tom Sawyer getting his fence painted. Would you like me to teach you how to make Christmas bread??? Wink, wink.
Wouldn't trade off a minute of it.

Mary Preston said...

It's the traditions that make Christmas special. I couldn't drop any. I continue on with the same traditions that my parents did for me as a child.

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kris said...

We're actually trying something different this year, and in preparation, I asked each of the kids what they needed most to make it feel like a "real" Christmas. Interesting answers. The youngest two, of course, opted for presents :-)One said we had to have our traditional brunch, one said stockings with oranges in them, and the oldest requested some kind of tree, even it's small and simple. As for me, I realized I'll need some sort of Christmas Eve service, even if it's just me reading the Gospel story out loud and then all of us holding candles to sing Silent Night. So I'll make sure to honor those wishes while letting the other things slide. We'll see how it goes!

Cathryn Parry said...

Every year, my husband "grumps" a little when I drag him along to pick up the (real, from a tree farm) Christmas tree. But when we get it home, and he starts opening up and hanging the ornaments, he seems to really enjoy it. Our ornaments are collected from trips that we've taken these last 20 years, and they bring back such good memories of our times together. I love Christmas!

Beth Andrews said...

I love Christmas but I don't like it to come too early so we're the last of my extended family (parents, brothers and sisters) to do our decorating. Dec 1 is early enough for me to deck the halls *g*

Eli Yanti said...

I'm celebrate chinese new year and our tradition is my mom will cook for offerings to ancestors, after that we will eat together. And at night, we will pray to God and light incense until 24.00 hours and my mom will tell us to light all our lamp for good thing in new year, In the morning, we will change our new clothes and saying "gong xi fat choi" - probably same with hallelujah and got "angpao" - red envelopd which filling with money for people who has not married

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