Christmas is a lot of work. This is news to absolutely no one. Especially moms out there reading. And single parents. And dads who split holiday-making and child-rearing duties fifty-fifty with their partners. (Which means it’s only half as much work for you couples, so congratulations!)
For many of us, Christmas means cleaning and decorating, shopping and gift-wrapping, baking and cooking, gift preparation and delivery of said gifts to neighbors, business clients, teachers, and other special people to whom we aren’t related, but tend to take for granted the rest of the year.
And let’s not forget that all of these very worthy holiday tasks, obligations, or traditions – whatever we choose to call them – are piled high on top of our normal hill of everyday important stuff – like working or going to school, making sure everyone is fed, dentist appointments, oil changes, helping with homework, and sleeping. Please don’t forget sleeping.
But here’s what I call the Christmas kicker: Not only are all of these holiday things supposed to happen, but if I’m processing it all correctly, I feel like we’re supposed to enjoy making them happen, and act as if doing so is, to quote a very dear friend, “easy peasy.”
First, let me be clear. I love Christmas. Truly, I do. But I firmly believe that a paradigm shift needs to occur, and soon, if Christmas wants to hang onto its most-wonderful-time-of-the-year title, at least with me. And to elaborate on that, I need to talk about the holiday that comes roughly a month before it.
It might sound like bragging when I say that we have finally figured out Thanksgiving, but we have. I’ve always had a pretty good handle on celebrating Christmas, but I spent a long time trying to reclaim the Thanksgiving of my youth for my own family – and berating myself when I failed. My mother loved the November holiday because of the work, not in spite of it. She sequestered herself for days in the kitchen preparing one meal, and, she says, my father hailed Thanksgiving as his favorite holiday because he was so proud of my mother’s abilities to do this, all while making it look, you guessed it, easy peasy. As you can imagine, this apple fell far from that tree.
Once I recognized that a holiday so food- and cooking-focused, even if it is just one day, was not going to fly at our house, Thanksgiving started to take shape. The first thing we did was sign up to host a table and serve at the The Giving Heart Community Thanksgiving Feast at the Richmond Convention Center. Next, we moved our family’s Thanksgiving meal to Friday and took some of the perceived pressure off the table (and the cook!) by doling out the traditional dishes among immediate family members.
But long before these changes, my daughter Robin had considered Thanksgiving her favorite holiday for the following reasons: it’s more relaxed; it involves eating, and it marks the official beginning of the Christmas season.
After reading Scrooge-Proof the Holidays (page 20) from our Real Mom Cheron Smalls this month and revisiting the musings of my wise-beyond-her-years daughter, I figured out why it worries me that the world wants to start the Christmas season earlier and earlier every year, effectively minimizing Thanksgiving. Cheron says it plain-as-day in her article: We all need to “be selective.”
“There are four weeks in December,” she writes, “and somehow we need to pack in school parties, work functions, family gatherings…” She adds later, “My rule of thumb is that if it feels like a burden, then I probably don’t need to do it.”
Here’s my theory: The world is trying to change the rules, extending the season to give us more time to frantically cram in more stuff and spend more money, when what we really need to do is work with the time we have, and like our Real Mom says, “be selective.”
And I’m not alone on this. I read recently that seventy-one percent of Americans dislike the Christmas creep that’s taking over November. To the other twenty-nine percent: I have forgiven you for calling me a Grinch when I complained about Christmas music on the radio the night before Halloween.
And now that December is finally here, Merry Christmas to you, too!