In our house, we celebrate one holiday at a time. This means that we don’t even think about Christmas until the Thanksgiving leftovers are tucked into Tupperware and shoved to the back of the fridge.
Friday morning we head out bright and early to get our Christmas tree, in order to enjoy it every day possible.
Once Christmas is on my radar, I find I’m bombarded with unsolicited email and helpful articles everywhere I turn. Black Friday! Cyber Monday! Free Shipping! 40% off! Gift lists for him! Gift lists for her! 25 awesome stocking stuffers! 15 make-ahead holiday cookies! 5 sexy celeb party looks!
Run! Click! Shop, shop, shop!
I feel a momentary flutter of panic. How will I get it all done? Is this Christmas season shorter than usual?
(Not really. With Thanksgiving on the 24th this year, we have 31 days to shop, wrap, bake, eat, party. Last year we had 30 days, next year 33.)
Oh, and let’s not forget that regular life isn’t put on hold so we can dedicate ourselves to Christmas. In fact, my husband’s business is seasonal, so these weeks he works 12 hours days. And at my work it’s the last month of the last quarter of the fiscal year, which means the workload is pretty intense.
But I needn’t worry, I’m also bombarded with a plethora of advice on how to avoid stress and other unpleasantness during the holiday season. It seems everywhere I turn I can read about: Surviving Holiday Travel with the Kids; Sneaky Tactics to Help You Cope with the Holiday Season; Stress Less Celebrate More; Spend Less Give More; Quick Cures for a Food Hangover.
My approach to the Christmas season this year is to be deliberate. I have abandoned a “do it all” mentality – that in previous years has left me feeling inadequate because it’s simply impossible – in order to focus on helping my children re-experience the traditions they love and make new memories. I, too, want to feel some of the Christmas magic I felt as a child, so elusive now. This definitely won’t be the year I create a red and green Christmas extravaganza worthy of the centerfold in Martha Stewart Living!
Here are three things we’re doing this year to have a sane and memorable Christmas:
Watching our favorite Christmas shows We have many favorites, both old (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and new (Elf, The Polar Express, Prep and Landing). I’ve used the DVR to record them all. Although my younger daughters will probably watch each a dozen times through the Christmas season, I like to enjoy the first viewing with them.
Sharing the gifts of Christmas My little girls are all about the presents. If asked why they are most excited about Christmas, they will undoubtedly tell you that it’s because of the toys that Santa brings. We have two family traditions to encourage the girls think about others and experience the joy of giving. On an afternoon close to Christmas, my husband takes the girls to Target where they grab 2 or 3 shopping carts and go through the toy aisles. The girls can choose any and every fun-looking item from shelves and toss it into the carts. On the way home, they stop at our neighborhood fire station to drop off their bags of goodies. Our town’s fire department runs a Toys for Tots program – every fire station is open to receive donations that they deliver to a local non-profit that assists low income families in our community.
My company, like many others, hosts a holiday wish drive. I try to choose the wish cards of three children about the same ages as my own. My girls love to read what each child has asked for, and they spend quite a bit of time discussing who will shop for which child. One evening after dinner we drive to the mall and each girl shops for her child. This year we bought a pink Razor scooter, a Star Wars Clone Wars Trooper Blaster, and a makeup kit!
Baking cookies OK, I’ll admit that my daughters probably couldn’t care less about this tradition. I was raised in a cookie family, but I married a pie man. I think the pie gene is dominant. Growing up, my sisters and I would spend hours looking through our mother’s Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, trying to decide what to bake. Inevitably we chose the same favorites every year, but we always had a delicious assortment of special cookies at Christmas. To my dismay, my own girls don’t share this enthusiasm. Christmas cookies are important to me, though, so instead of knocking myself out making dozens of cookies nobody else cares for, I asked each member of the family to tell me the one special cookie they’d like this year. I’ll get to enjoy baking a once-a-year treat that will be appreciated and, who knows, maybe I’ll even get some help!