Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

It’s the Holiday Season and, Really, Whoop De Doo* Because Well, Ugh.

I’ve asked around and it feels like there’s an epidemic of apathy this holiday season. It doesn’t matter what holiday is being celebrated it seems like everyone I talk to is trying to wish the holiday season away as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden Christmas and Hanukkah are days away and I am scrambling and stressed and wondering how the hell it’s the end of December already. I blame the mild temperatures in Chicago, where I live, for tricking me into thinking that the usual snowy holidays were months away instead of weeks. Or maybe it was the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win that made me feel like the end of the world was fast approaching so why bother with the gift shopping. Or maybe it’s just the news.

All I know is that I have a shopping list that needs to be dealt with, a closet full of presents that need to be wrapped, a stack of Holiday cards that need to be addressed and mailed, and absolutely zero motivation to tackle any of it.

What’s a girl who usually loves the holidays to do?

I’ve checked in with other folks who are feeling the madness and asked them how they are putting the “Happy” back in Happy Holidays. Before you go to your room and stay there until January 2 you might want to try some of these ideas first.

  1. Buy less stuff. In other words, stop shopping now. I need to stop looking at gift lists. Every time I do I find another thing that would be perfect for only $25.00! Do you know how quickly a bunch of useless $25.00 gifts add up? Ridiculous. Just stop.
  1. If you’ve already done most of your shopping try a trick that works well when you are preparing for a trip. Travel experts agree that if you lay out all of your clothes when you are packing you can usually put away half of what you thought you would need and still have too much. It’s the exact same thing with presents. Right now, put all of your purchases on the floor and return half of them.
  1. Plan an experience instead of buying more stuff. Fewer boxes, better memories.
  1. Skip the holiday cards if you haven’t made them or bought them already. You could send something to the relatives who never see your kids but do you really need to send one to all of your kids’ friends? One friend just posted a picture on social media of the holiday card she is sending to her far-flung family and friends. Another friend is opting for Happy New Year cards instead. If all else fails and you still want to send a card you could pull a Julia Child and send out Valentine’s Day card.
  1. Find time to spend with family that doesn’t involve gift giving. Watch a movie, cook together, play a game, go for a walk.
  1. Volunteer. You’ve probably heard it before but helping others really helps put the stress and the excesses of the holidays in perspective.

Wishing you all the best for this holiday season!

fullsizerender

*This is an actual song made famous by Andy Williams minus the “ugh” part

Advertisements

Why Creating Family Traditions is a Bad Idea

photo

Hey, you, over there, taking the photos of your lil’ punkin in the pumpkin patch, put down the camera and step away from that cute family moment.

I’m doing you a favor here. You may think that this is the beginning of a great family tradition that will last a lifetime but really you are merely starting down a path that will lead to pain and misery.

Seriously.

Sure, right now it’s adorable to watch your 2-year-old try to lug that ten pound pumpkin and to see your daughter grinning from ear-to-ear as you lift her overhead to reach the apple at the top of the tallest tree in the orchard.

But right now doesn’t last forever…they eventually become teenagers and that’s when the fun ends.

The child who one day loved all of your family traditions will turn on you the next day and demand that you stop engaging in traditional family activities that bore them/embarrass them/make them hate you because you are making them participate.

Just save yourself the pain of one day trying to get your teenagers to go pick out a pumpkin with you or go apple picking or decorate the Christmas tree while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas music.

They won’t do it.

“But you LOVE apple picking,” you will remind your 15-year-old and he will look at you as though the very idea of eating an apple is repulsive and you have lost your mind because he never, never, ever enjoyed that activity.

“Help me put out the Halloween decorations, please,” is met with: “Why would we put out decorations? We aren’t little kids anymore—mom.”

Last year I “threatened” (i.e. screamed for a good 30 minutes) to take away Christmas unless someone helped me decorate the tree; five minutes later the tree was decorated but it was shrouded by a cloud of disdain for all things jolly.

At that point I officially hated Christmas.

Eventually your teenagers’ contempt for your heart-warming family traditions—the traditions you lovingly developed to create routine and joy in their lives—will just suck the joy out of the season.

So what do you do when the family traditions you’ve created no longer fit your family (but you still want them – damn it!)?

You could:

A) Have every family tradition involve a gift exchange because, somehow, my family is still ok with the traditions of gift giving for Christmas and Hanukkah.

B) Wait until you have grandchildren and do it all over again while secretly waiting for the day that your child calls you in a huff because his kid won’t pick out a pumpkin without several friends in tow. (This, of course, is my personal favorite.)

Or,

C) You could just adapt.

Unfortunately, option “C” eventually wins.

Until recently, I never thought about not being with my children for a holiday but, of course, my husband and I did that to our parents once we started dating. We had to divide our time between events or, as was often the case once we had kids, trade off between families every year. We solved the agony of making three Thanksgiving stops by forcing everyone to come to our house but even that has changed, as our siblings have had to adapt to their own extended family plans.

But significant others aren’t the only ones who force changes on family traditions. Once my son left for college even something as silly as giving him a half-birthday cake on his half-birthday (one of my favorite traditions) turned into a logistical nightmare since it fell on a weekend and I couldn’t send a homemade half cake. I compromised by sending a half-dozen cupcakes from a local bakery but that turned a simple idea into quite a pricey event and, besides, it just wasn’t the same.

But what about when he studies abroad and isn’t home for Thanksgiving? Or what if he decides to stay for Christmas in his new locale? How will I manage to arrange for his favorite holiday tradition, hanging his stocking on his door for Christmas morning?

It just occurred to me that there will come a day when my boys will not wake up in my house on Christmas morning and their stockings will sit on the mantle, unfilled, as mere decoration, much the same way our uncarved pumpkins decorate our porch now.

“It’s what’s supposed to happen,” my husband just said to me. Clearly, he isn’t quite as moved by this as I am. 

Screw that.

I changed my mind. I’m not going with option “C,” I’m going with option “A” above. A little bribe, I mean gift, could go a long way.

photo

Holiday Fight Club

Have you heard about the new holiday tradition? It’s non-denominational, it can happen any time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and you can’t plan it (I don’t think).

It’s the Traditional Holiday Fight and everyone has one.

I never thought of it as a tradition until a friend of mine asked me if I had had my holiday fight yet. I laughed because, of course, I had. We are deep into December – it’s to be expected. She had her fight over Thanksgiving, which might be the way to go since it helps defuse the tension that is sure to build up by December.

I then took a highly scientific poll of five other people and they also have an annual Holiday Fight.

Sounds like a tradition to me!

Usually the fights are about the exact same thing every year. (You know that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. That doesn’t apply here).

Maybe your fight is about spending too much time with the in-laws or having to travel to visit family out of town—again. It might be about over-spending or placing the burden of all of the preparation and shopping on one member of the family. Or, as it is in my house, it could be about decorating the tree although it’s never really about the tree (just like it’s not about the in-laws or the money or the unequal distribution of responsibilities).

Our fight about decorating the tree comes down to one thing: the Christmas tree is a symbol. A test, if you will. A test to see if my Jewish husband is really okay with this whole “Christmas tree in the middle of the living room thing,”

Never mind that for the 22 years that my husband and I have been married he has always helped me put up and decorate a Christmas tree (even helping me pick out a real one for years!) just as I’ve always stood by his side to sing the song and light the candles in the menorah during Hanukkah.

And yet, every December, like clockwork, I say these words:

“I’m canceling Christmas! That’s it! You guys never help me so no one gets presents this year!” And then I cancel Hanukkah as well.

You see, I usually decide with very short notice that I want to put up the Christmas tree. The test for my husband is to see if he will be as excited as I am.

Not surprisingly, he is never as excited as I am.

Unfortunately, as the kids have gotten older their excitement has waned as well. Sure they want the tree up and they want the presents under the tree, but they don’t want to hang up the ornaments. It doesn’t help that dad isn’t enthusiastic either.

This year my 14-year-old tried the “I’m an atheist so this isn’t important to me.” Until, of course, I said that a) the tree is a secular, not religious, symbol, and b) if he truly is embracing atheism he shouldn’t expect gifts.

I think he’s agnostic now.

At this point I usually explode.

I yell that I am taking away Christmas and everything else comes pouring out. I start complaining about all of the shopping and preparations I have to do for TWO holidays even though no one appreciates it anyway and I launch into an attack on my husband, accusing him of being passive-aggressive and stalling so he doesn’t really have to help with my holiday and then I scream that I will not buy a single Hanukkah present for anyone including his family for their Hanukkah party and I will not buy the Hanukkah candles either!

So there!

In case you think I’m an inconsiderate jerk, I do try to be sensitive to my husband because Hanukkah is totally over-shadowed by Christmas but in the course of being sensitive I tend to get resentful. I suddenly want red bows, giant holiday wreaths and Santa chotchkies everywhere! I want the mantle to be draped in evergreen and Christmas music playing 24/7.

The more I see the over-the-top decorations, the more I want them and the more bitchy I get when I can’t have them even though I have never, and I mean never, liked over-done holiday decorations and I’m actually quite content with our little tree.

See, clearly the fight is not about the tree.

But even though I’ve gotten to the root of the matter and I could have a mature discussion with my husband to resolve this, I’m choosing instead to embrace the fight. It’s tradition!. It’s right up there with Christmas morning French Toast, our handmade gift exchange and potato latkes on Hanukkah.

The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without them.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 7.31.01 PM

Have you had your Traditional Holiday Fight yet? If not, what are you waiting for??

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Holiday Shopping (or what not to do if you actually want to buy gifts this season)

No matter how much I think I have my shit together I always find myself scrambling for the “perfect Christmas gift” on December 24. It’s not like Christmas falls on a different date every year or that I haven’t been reminded on a daily basis since Halloween to start my holiday shopping and yet…

This year I had the crazy idea that I could be one of those people who shop for holiday gifts throughout the year. I would pick up the perfect presents as I found them and squirrel them away until the holidays.

And then I snapped out of it.

I think that I’m a much better shopper in full-on panic mode. That doesn’t mean that I actually buy better gifts when I’m panicking; it simply means that I get more creative.  For instance, in years past, our local 24-hour pharmacy’s “As seen on TV” section has been a real life saver. The Snuggie was the inspiration for the “couch potato” themed gift for my youngest son which included popcorn and a couple of DVDs and I tossed the infamous Ped Egg in a basket with some foot cream and nail polish for a friend. Done!

imgres

So, you may be wondering how I get myself into this predicament every year—or maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I usually don’t procrastinate especially when it’s something I enjoy – and I truly enjoy picking out gifts for others. I think the problem is that there is just so much to choose from that I get distracted.

It goes something like this:

First, I go online to browse. I don’t want to head out to a store, or 12—only to find nothing worth buying so, I browse. I check out the GAP website looking for more clothes for my 17-year-old because I have no idea what else to buy him. I scroll through the long-sleeve shirt section but as I scroll back to the top, I notice the GapFit tab. I could use some more yoga pants, I think. I’ll just see what they have and add stuff to my list.

15 minutes and $60 later I have new yoga pants – my husband can wrap these for me – but no shirts for my kid.

Then, I make another major gaffe by “peeking” at Amazon.

It’s like a black hole.

I bounce from Young Adult books for my youngest to shoes for my 17-year-old to stocking stuffers (ooh, gloves!) to the new Kindle HDX.  Then I take a detour to look at the Holiday Gift Guide which makes me remember all of the magazines that I have been saving with Holiday Gift Guides so I abandon my cart and start to flip pages.

I love Gift Guides. They have absolutely nothing that I would ever buy for anyone – ever – yet, I can’t stop buying magazines that scream “Best Ever Holiday Gift Guide” on the cover. I am positive that one year there will be something that strikes a cord but so far – zip. I mean, who on earth would want a $165 Oscar de la Renta ceramic Shell Crab Condiment Server??

When the “fun” of online shopping wears off I often head to the mall (although usually not on the same day lest you think I’m crazy). I always believe that the festive atmosphere of shopping malls around the holidays will compel me to finish my holiday shopping.

Usually, however, it compels me to buy more gifts for myself.

Just so we are clear, I rarely shop for myself – seriously – I need to have a reason to shop and wearing the same pair of jeans for years does not qualify as a reason. However, no matter where I go I can always find something that I want (notice that I didn’t say need) during the holidays. This time I found the perfect pair of pants, the best handbag ever, and sunglasses that block the sun and don’t make me look like a bug!

And so it goes:  one thing for a family member and five things for me.

This pattern of online shopping followed by mall shopping can go on for a couple of weeks. Inevitably it leads to shopping burnout which, in turn, leads to me shopping at the 24-hour pharmacy on December 24.

I already see the Sobakawa Buckwheat pillow and/or the Abraham Lincoln Chia head in someone’s future.

%d bloggers like this: