If you’re like me, you suddenly realized that it’s the end of October and that means it’s almost Thanksgiving and Christmas. Time to panic, right? I know I am. I can feel my blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketing just by sitting here typing the word Christmas.
It’s Written in the Cards
Every year I think to myself, “This Christmas will be different.” This time I will be different. I mentally argue that I should start shopping now while nobody’s at the mall. I should wrap the presents early. I should buy Christmas cards and fill them out while binge-watching Broadchurch, and mail the season’s greetings on December 1st. I have no excuse for at least getting the cards out because I’m pretty sure I still have blank ones sitting in a bag on the floor at the back of my closet.
I know I’m not alone in the cards department, though. The number of Christmas cards I receive each year has gone steadily down. I love receiving Christmas cards–the more glittery, corny, and goofy, the better. I even love those lengthy newsletters thrown into the envelope updating me on what the sender’s family has been up to (as if I didn’t already get this info from Facebook).
Confession: I wait to read the newsletters until after the holidays are over so that I can savor every word. One friend’s insert is usually incredibly clever and I want to give it the attention it deserves instead of giving it the old college skim while in the middle of frantic shopping.
Why don’t I send out my own cards, I wonder? If I’m so overjoyed by receiving such a small thing in the mail, maybe others would enjoy hearing from me. Anything personal in the mailbox, especially these days, is welcome. I don’t know about you but all I’m seeing lately are bills and political ads.
Or is a Christmas card from me a welcome intrusion? Am I inadvertently adding to the recipient’s holiday stress by making them feel that now I’ve sent them a card, they have to return the favor? Hmmm…maybe that is the case for some. How often have you sent out a Christmas or holiday card to a friend, and received one back from that very friend a few short days later? Incredibly suspicious timing, don’t you think?
I have this weird idea of what Christmas needs to look like. In order for me to feel satisfied and give myself a pat on the back for a job well done, it needs to look as if someone who walked into the room might die from an avalanche of gifts. Not that I want someone to die, it just needs to look as if they could if they got too close to the tree.
To make my stress soar even higher on the scale, I never know what to get my family. So I rush from store to store trying to find something (anything!) to wrap and put under the tree. Got to make it look like there’s a ton of gifts. I feel the pressure of creating the perfect holiday for everyone. I listen to every word uttered by the kids between now and the big day, searching for clues into their psyches for what would bring them joy on Christmas morning.
One year my mom commented that there were so many presents she was sure we were running a community center for needy kids. The funny thing is, I got my idea of what Christmas should look like from my mom. No matter how poor we were, she made sure we had more presents than my sister and I knew what to do with. To this day, I don’t know where she got the money from.
At some point, my husband put the brakes on my interpretation of what Christmas means. He handed down a rule to his mall minions: there are five people in the family, so each person should get four presents.
That ‘rule’ lasted all of a week after I found the perfect gifts for each kid, and I happened to find a lot of perfect gifts.
Nick: I thought we agreed to only four presents per person.
I shrugged. “We” hadn’t agreed to anything!
Thanksgiving Is In the Bag
Thanksgiving isn’t nearly as stressful for me as Christmas because the menu and guest list is a given. After so many years, we’ve all figured out our favorite foods and I make them all–barely needing to check any recipes. I serve a roasted turkey, ‘fancy’ cranberry sauce (from the can), green beans almondine, mashed potatoes with smoked gouda, homemade stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, sparkling soda for the young, wine for the not-so-young, rolls, and a couple pies thrown in: pumpkin for Sam and me, cherry for Nick, and apple crumble for Momo and Devon. Some will want their pie heated and served with ice cream. Dinner on Thanksgiving is no big deal, especially since we don’t usually have guests.
The only stress Thanksgiving brings is wondering if it will be so hot that I have to cook in shorts. Also, if I bought enough butter.
Getting an F at Christmas
Following through on something so easy like preparing for Christmas long before the actual date would make my happiness during the holidays so much greater than it normally is. Each week before Christmas, every last nerve of mine is frazzled because I don’t have enough presents for everyone in my family. Or at least I feel as if I don’t have enough presents. I never complete the activities that would make Christmas more joyous to me, and I don’t know why. The things I do instead are not necessary to a calmer Christmas.
Equally noteworthy is that I don’t mail out the presents to my family in other states long before it becomes a potential holiday disaster. Every year, on my birthday (which happens to be the last date the post office can guarantee gifts get to the people on time), I’m standing in a long line with all the other procastinators, berating myself for once again failing at the holidays.
But, yeah, this year will be different.