Yesterday, as we were driving through our town, we passed a number of houses that were already decorated for the holiday season. Big, beautiful wreaths graced their front doors, and sparkling, white light trimmed their homes. They looked lovely. I felt stressed.
“People are decorating for Christmas already!” I announced, exasperated. “It’s so early! We should get on that.
My husband laughed. “They probably hired people to do it for them,” he replied, which reminded me of the neighborhood my brother and sister-in-law live in Salt Lake City. There, most people hire out their holiday decorations, an expensive undertaking, but the houses do look festive and attractive. (My brother and sister-in-law hang their own decorations and their house looks wonderful.) Back here in Massachusetts, we (okay, my husband) decorate the exterior of our house, too, but usually not until after Thanksgiving, and not nearly as extensively as the homes in my brother’s neighborhood or the ones we saw last night in our town.
That brief flash of oh-we-have-to-do-that-too shook me a bit. I don’t want that kind of a holiday season: no keeping up with others for us. Instead, I want a holiday season focused on tradition, shared rituals, and meaning. To that end, I’m vowing to do three things differently this holiday season:
- Scaling Back. I have my son to thank for this one. On one of our walks to school last week, as the kids were talking about writing to Santa, R said, “Sometimes, Christmas is too much.” Further discussion helped me understand his comment: previous years’ celebrations—with all of the presents—overwhelmed him, and he’d like a different kind of Christmas this year. Surprised that a seven-year-old could come up with such an observation, I was also pleased (I’m counting it as a successful parenting moment), as that is just what I had in mind this year. So fewer presents will be under our tree this year—though explaining to my daughter that Santa will not be able to bring her a live unicorn, a real baby bear, and a dog might be tricky. The presents that will be there will be more significant, and, I hope, now that my kids are getting older, more appreciated.
- Slowing Down. The kids are off from school for two weeks, and my husband and I are taking off about the same amount of time from work. We saved vacation for this purpose, and plan to spend the weeks together as a family, decompressing from a hectic year and getting ready for 2015.
- Staying Focused. We’ve started several important holiday traditions over the years, and we’ll be sure to continue them this season. We’ll decorate our Christmas tree with ornaments we’ve gathered over the years, and we’ll hang the stockings made for us by beloved family friends. We’ll make a gingerbread house, we’ll go see the Boston Pops Holiday Show, and the kids will be in the Christmas Eve pageant at church. Our Elf on the Shelf, Charlie, will reappear Thanksgiving weekend, and we’ll celebrate the people we love even though we’ll be apart from cousins, aunts, and uncles this holiday (a scheduling quirk). We’ll focus more of the beauty of Christmas and much, much less on the wrappings.
I like these vows! Will we stick with them? Or, will we get caught up in sparkle and temptation? My instinct is that we’ll carry it through—especially since the kids are on board (well, except for that live unicorn request). I’ll be sure to report back.
What about you? What are your holiday plans?