Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas is not for sissies... apparently I am one


I hate to be a Grinch, but I'm just not into Christmas. The whole holiday season, for that matter. At least in this day and age.

Don't get me wrong. I used to be all over Christmas like white on rice. When I was younger, I counted the days. Compiled my list. Practiced my carols on the piano. Vied to be "Mary" every year at a neighbor's annual Christmas caroling party. Helped bake and eat a multitude of Christmas confections. Made my own gifts. Hell, one year I even made my own wrapping paper and handmade Christmas cards featuring my cat.

I don't know when the pressure started to mount. I remember back in the early 90's after I graduated college and feeling exhausted after a long day at work capped off with fighting the mall shopping crowds looking for that perfect gift for each and every member of my family. That was BEFORE kids. I look back on that now as a walk in the freakin' park.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was determined to give my kids the Christmas experience and traditions that I had growing up. We would decorate the tree with "meaningful" ornaments from my childhood, any that my husband at the time had brought into the family, and of course every "Baby's 1st" ornament for any occasion that was available. I pulled out all the cookie recipes and made dozens and dozens, making sure that my husband had a big tray to take to work every year. The house was decorated to the nines, we hit every parade and light festival and Santa brunch and I made sure my kids knew how egg nog with a sprinkle of nutmeg tasted. My mother had set the precedent and it was up to me to carry it on. (Hats off to her, by the way. I don't know how she and Dad did it all.)

For the past few years,though, I've found myself slipping from the SuperChristmasMom status. Last year I did all my shopping entirely online. The thought of going into a store and waiting in line for hours just turns my stomach. I don't have TIME, nor do I have the desire. Shopping is not fun for me anymore. The Christmas decorations have been pared down considerably - no more extension ladder for me - and the cookie baking is down to a few snowballs and some jelly-filled things that my youngest requests every year. (They actually go to my mom's to bake the cut-outs and decorate them with icing.)

I guess my biggest beef is that right after Halloween this year, the Christmas decorations appeared. Two weeks ago - well before Thanksgiving, two radio stations changed to "all Christmas music". Pre-Black Friday deals and stores opening up at 2 and 3 am have given me knots in my stomach making me feel like I'm missing out on some tremendous deal. I feel like the holiday is being shoved down my throat, and the expectations to cook and bake and decorate and shop and buy and entertain and wear fabulous holiday sweaters is just TOO MUCH PRESSURE. I barely have time to live my own life, let alone throw a congested, commercial holiday that lasts two months into the equation.

It makes me sad that I have this regard for the holiday season, but I'm a little miffed that it's come to this. Sure, I know we're all appreciative of the chance to get together with friends and family, and it is true that many people do seem to really have this "feelgood" holiday spirit, but I just can't get past the fact that it seems like it's all for the wrong reasons.

You'll notice that not once in this post have I mentioned the true meaning of Christmas. That's to prove a point. It gets soooo lost in all the other crap that even though we realize the true meaning, it's somehow been beat out to Black Friday deals and Today Show holiday cooking segments.

When did we all allow this to happen? How did this get so out of hand? The self-induced pressure I have to "deliver" a good Christmas is so enormous that it makes me just want to crawl in a hole until well after New Year's, coming out only on Christmas Eve to take in a midnight service in the peace and quiet of my local church. And yes, I say self-induced, because obviously if I wanted to have an Amish-style Christmas I could do so, but unfortunately I'm too mainstream to go against the grain.

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy sitting by the fire with my kids, and greeting the first snowfall of the season, and watching someone's face light up when they open the perfect gift. But I don't need a holiday season to do that. I often wonder if the cold winds of December are sometimes the Big Man upstairs just shaking his head at us all.

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