I feel like a bad mama saying this: I detest the December holidays.
“Kids: make your Christmas lists.” We have family far and wide who gift to our kids. I hate to sound like an ingrate, but it starts to feel like a chore and just another task. The kids are asked for lists, it assumes they *deserve* the things they list, and they start to take for granted that they’ll get things off their list. Am I creating a cycle of taking-for-granted, or is it being created by this sequence of events? We live in extreme privilege to even be asked for lists, to be given things off of them…. BAH!
The mess, oh but the mess! It is getting better as the kids get older, as they start to clean up after themselves, but every single fun holiday activity leaves a trail of mess that is just another thing I need to handle on top of the million other everyday things on the list. From gift wrapping to cooking baking, and from tree topping to card making, there will be pine needles, paper scraps, dough bits, and those teeny-tiny rolling balls that adorn the cutest cookies. All of this will be found in crevices and air vents for years to come, and all of this will need to be tidied after the activities are over. BAH!
And: gift-giving itself has become an expectation. For immediate family, the kids’ cousins, there seems to be a rule that one item is not enough. And, never arrive to a holiday party empty handed, even if my homemade treat or gift will sit in a corner only to be recycled next week or next year. Gift-giving is an art – to make gifts thoughtful, meaningful, and useful. It is a very stressful art. BAH!
Did I mention the trash? Wrapping paper, packing material, and sometimes even the gift itself ends up in the trash. For what? The memories? BAH!
Despite how much I dislike some of the “holiday traditions”, there are some that I love:
HOLIDAY CARDS. I take time to make cards, maintain our address books, and write notes to each of the cards we send. There is something meditative and reflective about writing to everyone on our list. And, I love keeping the cards that are sent to us, watching families grow and evolve. I love recalling memories from yesteryear with each person I write. As the years go by, those memories are purely timeless.
ADOPTING A FAMILY. Everyone deserves the brightest holiday ever. The energy we might otherwise spend on easily-forgotten gifts we redirect to the family we want to support. Every year, we try to go all-out with the family we support. We wrap each gift with care and make hand-stamped cards with special messages. We try to get everything on the lists, and we set up a wrapping party so any friends or family that contributed to the family can participate in that joy.
THE WONDER OF IT ALL. Well, despite my Scrooge attitude, there is indeed something special about the look in their eyes and the excitement of it all. I suppose, in a way, it can be worth it when the kids’ entire bodies are filled with such glee. We have a Christmas morning tradition where no one is allowed to get out of bed until they hear Nat King Cole’s “O Holy Night” blaring on the speakers. The house literally shakes awake at the sound of the tune. There are screams of delight and thumping down the stairs to see what wonders had been left overnight. It is a slow morning in pajamas, no gifts are opened until Mama Scrooge has a full cup of coffee. Then, only cards are opened — the long letter from Santa is read, cards from Mama Scrooge (that’s me) and Papa Santa (their dad). Then, when they nearly can’t take the suspense anymore, we’ll finally get to the gifts, one by one, and only one at a time. Everyone watches the one opening the gift. I like to take my time and carefully tear the tape so I can save the wrapping paper.
I really do hate the build-up of the holiday, but I guess I really do love the day itself. All that other stuff seems like it fades away when we distill it down to its most important part – that morning and those moments.
HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON TO YOU ALL! Bah, humbug! — Love, Mama Scrooge