This will be my 36th Christmas as a married woman and I have to admit, ten years ago I was resentful. This holiday was all about material stuff and deadlines and ornaments and work. Then I smartened up.
Now I know women who love this holiday and do it to perfection. Their homes would make Martha Stewart jealous. They have twenty Christmas trees scattered about. The smell of fresh-baked cookies and evergreens fill the air. They’re cheerful and excited and welcoming. Dang, I wish I was one of them. Instead I’ve learned to make peace with this failing of mine and have honed the following 3 Yuletide shortcuts…
Don’t sweat the decorating. We live near seven Christmas evergreen farms in my part of Connecticut and yet (drumroll please)… I have a fake tree! Ten years ago I found all of us lugging a full-grown fir into the house — sweating and swearing every step — when I realized there had to be a better way.
Enter new tree, easily assembled in three pieces, lights attached. All you do is plug it in. My husband and sons were horrified. I had killed Christmas, they told me. But I stayed strong and now our fake tree has become a tradition (not to mention the butt of many jokes).
Another thing I discovered is that teenagers make excellent ornament hangers. A few years ago I
bribed offered to pay my 16 year old son and his friends to help out. Who knew teenage boys were such an untapped resource?
Okay, it wouldn’t make the window of Neiman Marcus and I had to listen to punk-rock Christmas carols (you haven’t lived till you’ve heard “Silent Night” sung by “My Chemical Romance”), but it worked. I got my tree. They got their dough. Everyone was happy.
Don’t sweat the card. For some reason, I used to put a lot of pressure on this event. We had to have the perfect family picture with the dog and cat, all looking our best. Then a few years ago, something wonderful happened. Nine days before Christmas I realized I’d forgotten the card.
My high-school aged sons happened to be sprawled on our couch with the dog. I grabbed my phone and took a shot. The picture was grainy. The boys weren’t looking at the camera. Our dog looked like a large white rabbit. I told myself it was a “candid.” I got the card back from the printer, biting my lip each time I slid it into an envelope.
It was a hit! Who knew? People loved its “originality.” Okay, they were being polite but it was one more realization this holiday isn’t about perfection. I have a friend who sends regular old-fashioned cards with no photo. I have another who skips the card all together. I have another who sends all hers after the holidays. I admire anyone who listens to their own Yuletide voice.
Don’t sweat the dinner. I used to think I had to do everything. Despite offers of help, I thought I had to produce a perfect 5-star meal on my own. Then I smartened up. Now Mom brings a side. My sister brings appetizers. My brother brings dessert. And dinner is easier, thank you very much.
Unless you’re Nigella Lawson, no one is expecting Coq au Vin or Beef Wellington. As long as it’s edible, declare victory.
I have a friend who takes this concept one step further. She serves a full-course, gorgeous holiday dinner… on disposable plates. “I hate the clean-up,” she says. And though I wouldn’t be that intrepid, I admire her moxie. She knows where to channel her energies and that’s what this holiday is about. Christmas should be enjoyed by everyone, including you.
Now having said all this, there’s one more thing to add. Despite my moaning and bitching each year, something always happens. I call it my Christmas moment.
I’ll find myself alone in the living room on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. The tree is lit. Stockings are hung. Maybe one of my favorite songs like John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is playing. Christmas and I finally come face to face like two gunslingers.
And that’s when it happens. That’s when I feel it. Despite all the grousing and kvetching, in that hushed instant, Christmas comes into my soul. I see how this holiday is really about the passage of time. I see how its a touchstone each year for who we were and who we’re becoming. I look around and say thank you for my life.
Damn. And in the end, that’s my ultimate gripe.
No matter how Grinch-like I start, how much I want to remain above it all, in the end…Christmas always wins.
How do you feel about Christmas? Comments are always welcome and if you’d like to receive postings by email, just enter your address at the top right Thank you!