Take It Easy, Mrs. Claus!
Originally posted in 2013 ... little has changed since then except that even I find myself sending e-cards!
The holiday season is breathing heavily down our necks but, before you are completely overrun with lists, tinsel and an army of partly singed gingerbread men, take a moment to review and prioritize your seasonal traditions to ensure the word ‘holiday’ doesn’t get lost in the kafuffle.
Ask your family what they cherish most about the holidays—special food, decorations, family rituals—and recruit them to help. It may surprise you to discover that an overwhelming proportion of our fondness for traditions can be attributed to the fact that someone else is taking care of them!
For example, when I was growing up, marzipan stuffed dates and my mother’s beautiful holly boughs were an essential part of Christmas as I knew it and expected it to be; but, much as I still enjoy the memory of these things, it has never been quite enough to get me to recreate them myself.
Many a tradition or family ritual is something we do because we enjoy the pleasure it gives family and friends which is, after all, the spirit of the occasion. But, once in a while, recreating that special treat or event year after year becomes more of an obligation than a joy and that is when it’s time to let it go and allow other people and new holiday habits to fill in the gaps.
In general, the Mrs. Clauses of the world assume the greater burden of the holiday preparations. This can quickly turn an informal family gathering into a major event planning exercise. Already, I’m cleaning things no one will ever see and stocking up my larder as if a famine was imminent; not to mention the lists and lists of lists I’ve managed to amass … it’s ridiculous! Run out of crackers, or eat all the chocolates before anyone else is out of bed … it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that those you love are with you, they arrive on your doorstep safe and sound, stay long enough to enjoy your company and depart while you are still enjoying theirs—admittedly, this can be a fine line to discern!
Take the pressure off this year. Discard the myth—and its accompanying obligations—of the ‘designer holiday’. The perfect magazine-cover-Christmas-tree is a beautiful thing to behold but its wow-factor is short lived. Put a little more ‘Charlie Brown’ in your décor and a little less ‘Martha’. Christmas should be a holiday, not a performance.
I cannot help but wonder if Christmas, like everything else, will eventually become a virtual event … e-Xmas complete with e-cards and on-line shopping dispatched by strangers leaving no torn up wrapping paper, or conifer needles to pick up, or thank you cards to write. Travel continues to become more costly and harried. Will families just have ‘face time’ on Christmas morning?
But, for as long as this holiday season is celebrated in real time with real people and real egg nog, it remains the peak season for social home invasions with friends and family streaming in and out of your nest. So, be sure to set aside a small space and a little time each day to recharge your goodwill-towards-all-men(!) battery.
To all you Mrs. Clauses in the world, I applaud you and invite you to hang up your floury aprons, recharge your glasses and show up for the holidays instead sooner rather than later.