I was grumpy about Christmas this year. I’m not exactly sure why. It just felt too much, I guess.
Too much work.
Too much energy.
Too much time.
Too much money.
Too much sugar.
I resent being coerced into feeling and doing, and this Christmas Thing is a big bossy beast. All the hoopla feels contrived. There’s the tree and the colored sugar, the stockings, the special meats and cheeses, the candles and lights, the gifts, the ceremonies, blah, blah, blah, BLAH. Everything is expected. We are expected to prepare. We are expected to wait. We are expected to gather. We are expected to be joyful.
Quite frankly, expectation isn’t much fun. Expectation is just a bunch of intense hopefulness for a whole lot of days, one euphoric moment (if we’re lucky), and then, inevitably, a lot of disappointment, otherwise known as “coming back down to earth.” And then there’s the recuperation. Actually, the recuperation—a book, a sofa, and a fire for hours on end—is pretty sweet. The crashing, irritable children, not so much.
Yet what other option do we have but to prepare, hope, and expect? No one wants to be a scrooge. And if we want things to be special, we surely have to work for it. This year, though, it felt more like the demand to make Christmas special came from the outside and not from in me. And quite frankly (again), at this point, if it weren’t for the childers, I’d be ditching a whole lot of traditions in favor of Taking It Easy.
Back to the “preparing for the special” part. Compare Sundays to Christmas for a sec. Both require preparation, expectation, and then a few hours of smooth sailing (hopefully). But while Sundays are ordinary and consistent enough to recharge my batteries (and to make it through to the next week if one goes awry), Christmas in all its once-a-year glory feels pressurized and daunting. Sure, there are moments of sweet fun scattered about, but in comparison to all the preparation, expectation, waiting, and sugar sugar sugar, the few moments of ho-ho-ho thrills do not measure up.
At least not this year. This year all the work felt like a drudge. And the special moments were too sticky sweet. They made me feel sickish.
Sometimes I am all puffy-chested proud that we have succeeded in minimizing the holidays as much as we have. No gifts, no big day-of gatherings, no parties to host, etc. Just a tree, a muted Christmas eve service, a supper of cheese and crackers, stockings in the morning, a new game to play together, a ham.
But other times—this year, for example—these few traditions feel totally over-the-top. Twenty-nine freaking dollars for a tree. All that money and time spent on finding junk, literal junk, for the stockings. The smallest ham I can find for only—ONLY—twenty-five dollars. The crick in my neck from icing pieces of baked dough. The money spent shopping for fancy chocolates and then melting them down and turning them into other candy when it’d actually be a whole heck of a lot simpler (and quite possibly even tastier) if I’d just buy the candy already made. You know what? Our annual donut party that feeds dozens is easier and cheaper than our down-home, “simple” Christmas.
One thing I didn’t do this year: hand out tins of candy to our neighbors. I bought the tins and I made the candy, but then I didn’t hand anything out. After three batches of chocolate peanut butter fudge, I couldn’t stand another bite of the stuff or inflict it on anyone else. The empty tins are on the fridge, and the buckets of candy are sitting up there, too. But now that I’ve decided to scratch that gift-giving event (and most likely chuck the candy), I’m awash in glorious relief. One less thing to do, yessss.
Since we’d be having ham at the extended family gathering on the 26th, we forewent our traditional ham (I returned the twenty-five dollar hunk of pig) in favor of pizza.
Except then my husband and older daughter got sick so we didn’t have pizza either. We mostly just ate candy and cookies and pistachios and popcorn. It was kinda gross.
We did have lots of green smoothies, thanks to my Brilliant Mama Move: stocking up on fresh spinach and bananas.
The best part of Christmas was the family gathering in Pennsylvania. We didn’t know if we’d all make it, what with being sick and all. But we did (except we skipped the visit to the great grandparents—we didn’t want to risk passing our delightful germ to them) and it was loads of fun.
It wasn’t fun because it was Christmas, mind you, but because we got to hang out together. It’s just as much fun when we gather in the summer.
This year we gave our kids their first Christmas gifts ever. (Well, our older son got gifts his first two Christmases, but those don’t count.) Each kid got one present. They didn’t know about this ahead of time and were pleasantly surprised. One kid was thrilled. The gifts were nice but not necessary. Next year it will probably feel necessary. Expectations, you know.
But guess what: Christmas is what I make it.
I am NOT some hapless victim, beaten and bullied by our capitalist, consummeristic culture.
I am in charge. ROAR.
Probably, my disgruntlement is simply a healthy indicator that it’s time to reevaluate our Christmas traditions. In other words, I will henceforth cherish my grumpy streak. It is, perhaps, my best attribute, my very own personal Voice Of Reason.
Ho, ho, ho.
P.S. My sincere apologies for extending my Christmas funk into the new year. I didn’t really have an option, though, since my husband backed it up, reinstalled everything, and nearly murdered the poor thing. My brother, bless his heart, rescued us and now I can write again. Happy New Year.
This same time, years previous: cranberry crumble bars.