Friday, November 30, 2012

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that? ~ Bob Hope

There is no holiday of higher expectations - or disappointment when those expectations are not met - than Christmas.  Starting well before Thanksgiving these days,  we are bombarded from all sides with commercials on the television selling the perfect, must-have-or-your-kids-will-need-therapy Christmas gifts.  Home decorating magazines, blogs, and now Pinterest all captivate our fantasies of having a Hallmark-perfect holiday. The perfect table scape, candle-laden-garland-festooned mantle, & hand-crafted-from-re-purposed-whatever ornaments are just a mouse click away. 

 Gone are the days of a simple Walton's Mountain Christmas where John Boy and his siblings exchanged a whittled toy out of wood or a handmade baby doll.  Now, we leave our homes on Thanksgiving evening before the second helping of pumpkin pie has had time to digest to go stand in a massive line at the mall to get $10 pajama pants at Old Navy. Oh.  Holy.  Night.

For years I blamed my unrealistic holiday expections on...well, my mother but mainly Martha Stewart and the Lifetime Channel's holiday movies.  Now that I've got a few Christmas' under my belt - 55 of them to be exact - I've learned a few things. I've learned to pick my holiday battles.  

Set a budget and stick to it. 
All year long we count our pennies, clip coupons, and look for the best bargains. Come the holidays, we spend like we just won the Powerball lottery.  Stick to a budget and you won't wake up in January with a financial hang-over.

Do things because you want to do them, not because you are expected to.
Go to the parties and get-togethers that are most important to you. Spending time with family and friends is what the holidays are all about.  Saying the "n" word - NO - might step on some toes and possibly hurt some feelings. Make sure your time is spent doing the things you want to do.  

How important is it?
Look at your holiday traditions and decide if just maybe it might be time to retire some.  How many boxes of gifts are you packing and shipping out snail mail to relatives that maybe a nice gift card might be a better way to go these days. Is it possible that some traditions could be tweaked or modified to give you a little extra time to breathe in some of that pine scent in front of the Christmas tree enjoying a nice glass of eggnog?

Think outside of your Christmas box
A lot of the stress that was felt on my Christmas Day was timing.  With all the family trying to please in-laws and out-laws it was nerve-wracking trying to work with everyone else's plans and logistics.  Several family members had jobs that their busy time was the holidays.  I made a unilateral decision that my Christmas would be moved to New Year's Day.  Whomever is at my  home on Christmas Eve is treated to a nice but simple dinner followed by candlelight communion service at our place of worship. Christmas Day is more of the same but usually includes some beach time.  New Year's Day is an open house with all the festivities of Christmas.  Presents are opened then so I have an entire extra week to shop the after-Christmas sales.  Everyone loves the tradition and it works for us.

Don't lose sight of the real meaning of the holidays.