Three days before Halloween someone in our neighborhood put up their Christmas lights, which was far more frightening than any ghoul or goblin that roamed the streets on October 31st. And a few weeks after Halloween we went to a department store to buy Kyle some “business casual” pants and were accosted by snowflake streamers and serenaded by Let it Snow. Is there anything else that needs to be said about how we should gear down our holiday madness? It seems that around this time of year there are countless articles, posts, news reports, and regular folks like me lamenting about how we have taken this too far.
So, in the spirit of it all, I’m going add to the word count and write about gearing down for the holidays because every year I need to hear it. I get swept up in all the hype and over-the-top expectations. I actually believe that: I should send out the most creative Christmas card (with the perfect family photo); I should have Christmas décor in every room and it should different and better than last year; I should buy gifts that make people weep and shout for joy; I should make it the best Christmas ever for every single person in my family – and perhaps in my extended family. One year, I even bought Christmas bedding from top to bottom for the out-of-town family that was coming in so that they would be literally wrapped up in holiday while they were nestled all snug in their beds. Nothing wrong with any of these things, but I’ve determined for myself that I can’t – and shouldn’t – do them all.
Everyone who dares to snarl at how over-marketed and under-enjoyed the holidays have become runs the risks of being branded a Scrooge. So be it. I’ve wasted a lot of time, money, and energy turning what should be a beautiful celebration into a stressful production. I’ve had too many holidays that left me with the feeling that I had completely missed the point. Since I’m trying to learn what it means to live simply, think of this post as a conversation. Tell me what you’re doing to simplify the holidays. And quid pro quo – I’ll go ahead and give you my list:
- At the very top of my list is this: I am going to enjoy Thanksgiving all weekend, so don’t expect me to join in any Christmas hype before Monday, November 26. I want to spend the weekend being grateful for what I have. I don’t do that nearly enough during the year, and so when there is holiday that is specifically designed for that purpose, I’m taking it.
- I will carefully choose my social engagements this holiday season. I do not have to attend every holiday gathering. All the parties, open houses, dinners and white elephant exchanges will go on without me. I have a few will-not-miss events that I have chosen carefully. I want these to add to the spirit of the season, not drain it out of me.
- My kids will not get piles of presents they did not ask for. Each of them will be given a list of a) one thing they want, b) one thing they need c) one thing they will give. This last one involves a $50 handout from us that they are then required to give to the charity of their choice. If that little list sounds unfair, I can only tell you that after almost 23 years of parenting I’ve learned that it is not my job to make my children happy, but to teach them – as best I can – how to take their eyes off themselves so that they can learn how to be happy. Besides, they have grandparents. They’ll be fine.
- I will do my best not to join in the crazy holiday shopping. Last year I wrote about how to shop differently and I’m going to do my best to carry forward with that. It’s not always easy. I tend to procrastinate (a fabulous way to complicate your life, by the way) and find myself at the Big Box getting a last-minute generic gift. If you see me there, don’t judge; just know that I did, indeed, procrastinate which took me on an unfortunate detour. It’s a journey folks. We learn as we go.
Before the madness begins, I hope tomorrow is a quiet day of reflecting on all that we have been given and then lifting up our lists with a humble prayer of gratitude.