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Unplug the Christmas Machine

With so many people feeling like the holiday season has become impersonal, frantic, costly, and devoid of meaning, this month, I’ll be blogging about Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season.  It’s a great resource for combatting commercialism and creating simple celebrations to draw families close together.  While authors Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli begin by presenting an interesting overview of Christmas history, their analysis and practical advice in the chapters “Women: the Christmas Magicians” and “Men: the Christmas Stagehands” provide the first step to reclaiming the holidays.

“Women have always played this central role in the celebration, Christmas is not only a religious holiday but a celebration of hearth and home, and it makes sense that women should take the lead.  But in this century, Christmas has become more elaborate, and women’s lives have become more complex,” explain Robinson and Staeheli.  Add all of the separate tasks as well as the invisible details and getting ready for Christmas feels like a part-time job so it’s no wonder many women have mixed feelings about it.

Examine your present holiday role and explore some possible changes.  Unplug the Christmas Machine suggests you start with a life-style inventory.

  • Assess how much “free time” you have to devote to the responsibilities of Christmas.
  • List your typical holiday tasks.
  • Spend some time remembering how you felt last Christmas as you were doing each of the tasks.
  • Highlight the tasks you actually enjoyed.
  • Describe the reason your dissatisfaction with the rest, such as not enough time, not enough money, not enough support.
  • Adjust your plans for this holiday season accordingly.

But before you do so, it may be necessary to account for Men: the Christmas Stagehands.  Although most women want their husbands to help out during the holiday season, what they want even more than that, according to Robinson and Staeheli, was for the “husbands to be enthusiastic about Christmas and to be more emotionally involved in the family holiday activities.”  In order to generate excitement, your spouse may need to do some assessing of his own.

  • Think back to your childhood Christmas.  Which traditions, activities, or occasions were particularly pleasurable for you?
  • Of these important childhood memories, which are reflected in your current celebration?
  • What changes would you like to make in the coming celebration?

Despite her best efforts otherwise, my mother often ends up feeling overwhelmed in December.  Trying to avoid this holiday tradition, a few years ago, my husband and I began planning our holidays during the drive home from our Thanksgiving trip to visit family.  This prevented me from running nonstop until New Year’s and provided my husband with his favorite gift – relaxing, quality family time.

So if trying to be a Christmas Magician leaves you feeling inadequate and acting as the Christmas Stagehand leaves you unfulfilled, try assessing the physical and emotional demands of holiday roles, and, like Robinson and Staeheli said, “see more clearly how joy in the celebration can be diluted by stressful feelings” so you can reclaim Christmas.


Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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