It is only the first week of December, and I have entered into an unbreakable vow with myself. I have vowed to never step into Walmart again until 2023. It is crazy out there. I don’t like crowds on any given day, but crowds during the holidays? No thank you.
Everyone is bustling around. In the stores, presents are being purchased. On the home front, elves are being put up on shelves, trees are being decorated, and parents are agonizing over where to hide the gifts THIS year. At the same time, the kids are planning secret missions worthy of MI6 to search every inch of the house away from Mom and Dad's gaze to find the presents.
Barely through Thanksgiving cooking and baking, mixers once again are whirring as the goodies are being made. Dinners are being planned. Some families are getting ready to travel. All of this is being done to create the perfect Christmas for our families.
I knew every year was going to be the year I did it all. I was going to embrace “Christmas in July” and be done before Thanksgiving, and then I would relax all through December in my comfies while everyone else was running around like mad people. In the 40-odd years of being in charge of Christmas, I have never achieved that goal - this year included.
Looking back at our various Christmases, some worked out great, and some we just got through. None were perfect. There was one Christmas we had a kitten named Penelope. We put the tree up and every day, all through the day, we had to rescue the tree from Penelope as she climbed up the trunk, shaking the boughs, and sending ornaments and tinsel all around the house. Christmas morning, she made a long jump for the tree, and as she hit it just right, the whole thing came crashing down. “That’s it! We are taking down the tree.” I declared. Before my children even had time to steal the last few candy canes from the tree or enjoy their presents, we packed it all up and took the tree to the curb for the trashmen.
One of my favorite Christmas presents growing up was the year I got the Hot Potato game.
A lazy man’s musical chairs, it was a red kind of creepy-looking - plastic potato. You sat in a circle and tossed it around the group and whoever had the potato in their hands when the timer went off, lost. I have a picture of us all playing it somewhere. In the age of real cameras and film, you bought at the store and paid to get developed-my brothers and I are immortalized playing the hot potato game, which was apparently deemed picture-worthy.
If Thanksgiving is for thanking and Christmas is for giving before we try to out-guess our kids and provide the perfect holiday, maybe ask yourself, what can you give this year that has meaning? What traditions are important to your family vs what only sounds fun when you are planning the holidays on a Saturday morning feeling rested and optimistic about your ability to get it all done? What do the kids really need? Pare it down, and get to the heart of what makes Christmas special for your family. How can you give? How can you serve others? You may find a simpler plan built around those questions can make for a holiday less crazy and one with more meaning.
And then Christmas morning when the kids are running around playing with their toys, food, and candy.
Even if you didn't do it all.
Even if the wrapping paper and bows are all over the ground.
Even if your cat has knocked down the tree.
Even if your kids are more fascinated by the boxes than the presents.
Look over the whole of it, smile, and be happy. After all, your next chance at “Christmas in July” is only 6 months away!