How to Ruin the Holidays

When I stand in line at the grocery store at this time of year, I stare in awe at various magazine covers. Special holiday editions of “Stepford Wife Home & Garden,” etc. can really do a number on my psyche. My mind instantly goes into comparison mode: “I don’t have an entire set of Christmas-themed wall art. Am I supposed to take down all of my pictures and replace them with yuletide crafts that coordinate with my tree, which matches my mantle, cutlery, dishes, bathroom towels, wrapping paper and bedding? I can’t keep up.”
I can’t keep up. That is a dangerous place for my mind to wander.

When I was a kid, my mom put up decorations. We had not one, but about 30 elves on various shelves, stockings, a tree skirt, ornaments and tinsel (my mom will deny ever using it, but she did). She broke out the good china for Christmas dinner and dad had Elvis, Glen Campbell and Bing Crosby on his playlist. The end.

It seems that with each passing year, there is a new nook or cranny that absolutely must be festooned with holiday cheer. Sure, you could say it’s one more symptom of holidy over-commercialization, but it’s more than that. When I start freaking out about not having Santa-faced hand soap, and trying to emulate magazine covers – from cookies to homemade gifts, or working myself into a Pinterest-induced frenzy – I’m not even in the holiday spirit anymore.

This idea that we need to “keep up” takes the joy out of everything, especially the holidays. Putting pressure on myself to make everything look and be “just so” backfires. Instead of being filled with the spirit of happiness and giving, I find myself anxious and exhausted. I also end up with hefty credit card bills in January. Worst of all, I lose my sense of gratitude – there’s that word again.

Twenty-plus years ago, when I was just starting my career far away from family and friends, all I really wanted was to be home. I wanted my grandmother’s vast Christmas Eve dinner. I wanted to be with my mom and sister in matching PJs, watching Claymation movies and baking disfigured Christmas cookies. A little tinsel … yes. I didn’t care about making an exact replica of a Pinterest craft that some clearly insane soul concocted. I wanted home.

This year, the tree will go up. There will be a wreath and an ill-fated craft or two. I’ll make my painfully disfigured cookies and treats, but I will absolutely not try to compete with any magazine’s art editor. I won’t over-extend myself financially. I will not say yes to every request and stress out to the point of hiding in my closet with a bag of chocolate Santas. Most of all, I’ll remember that I put all of the expectations on myself, which means I can drop them anytime I want. I won’t lose any friends if my bathroom towels are just … bathroom towels, and they see the same pictures of my dogs on the walls that they always see when they come over. Most importantly, this truly will be the most wonderful time of the year.

Now, I must sign off. I have movie dates with Burl Ives, Charlie Brown and the Grinch. Happy Holidays to you! ♦


Comments are closed.