Sunday, November 28, 2010
Christmas: a job or a joy?
"OK girls, I thought that this year since you are both teenagers we could skip the Christmas tree thing and save ourselves a bit of work. What do you think?"
The girls looked at me in horror. How could their mother be such a "Grinch"?
"What do you mean no Christmas tree?" they said in unison with an incredulous look on their face.
"Well, I didn't think you would mind because you don't help me decorate the tree or to take the tree down after the holidays so I thought you didn't care one way or the other" I said in my defence.
"Oh no, you are wrong! We do care. It would not be Christmas without a traditional Christmas tree in our family room"
Maya was the most passionate of the two. She said "Nadia had Christmases with all the trimmings every year of her life. She is now eighteen. You have to keep decorating the house for Christmas and get me an Advent chocolate calendar for at least another four years until I am also eighteen just to be fair!"
"What about a small artificial tree on stand instead?" I bargained.
"No. It's got to be a regular tree with all the trimmings." they insisted
"Are you going to help me decorate it then?" I asked.
"Of course we will!" they said. (We'll see about that...)
There seems to be two experiences of Christmas in our household: mine and theirs. My experience of Christmas is a mile long "To Do" list, dish pan hands from cooking and cleaning, blistered feet from shopping which leads to exhaustion by the time the big day arrives (a bit like planning a Wedding every year and looking back at the end of the day and saying to yourself "that was great but I can't believe it is already over after all those months of preparation". Their experience (I'm referring here to my husband and my two daughters) is one of Eggnog sipping, desert sampling, and afternoons of relaxing watching Christmas shows on TV.
I don't know how I have inherited the job of Christmas master decorator, baker, shopper, gift wrapper, and all around Christmas cheer maker. And to be perfectly frank, I resent it most times.
To be truthful, I am fully responsible for this state of affair. Something has got to change... I don't want to dread all the work ahead of me to prepare for Christmas. I want to have a happy Christmas this year. I want to enjoy the whole experience and make choices with my eyes wide open.
Is decorating the house an obligation or a fun activity? It is a matter of perspective wouldn't you say? Aside from the Christmas tree (which is a non-negotiable apparently) I don't think the girls really care which Christmas knick knack I take out of the boxes in the basement. I know that my husband won't even notice if I decorate the house or not.
There are no rules that say that if you are a good mother you bake several batches of Christmas cookies and stock your freezer full of brightly coloured tins filled with million calories worth of sugary treats. (Is there?)
And for the longest time I believed that a gift was an indication of how much you loved someone therefore I would put myself under huge pressure to find the "perfect" thing to express my feelings. By the time Christmas rolls around I am so tired from all the preparations and so anxious to get everything just right that I have to admit I am not much fun to be around. What if I reframed my thinking? What if I chose a new belief: a gift is just a gift and what makes someone feel special and loved is the quality time you spent with them.
As they say "If it is meant to be, it is up to me". So I started "Operation Happy Christmas 2010" this very day. I asked each of my daughter what was their favourite Christmas decoration and took those out. I went through all the boxes of decorations and only took out my favourite ones and I enjoyed finding special spots for those decorations throughout the house. The house looks festive and I am not missing the decorations from Christmas past that remain packed away in boxes.
As for the baking, I've earmarked a Saturday in mid-December and we will make it a family affair. We will each bake our favourite Christmas cookie while listening to Christmas music and drinking eggnog. We will only be making four recipes this year - one recipe per person. That should be plenty! And, it will be fun too!
This year, I want to give experiences to the people I love rather than store bought gifts. I will buy tickets for concerts, plays, or sports events and enjoy an evening in the company of my loved ones. Making memories together is better than a gift card from a big box store any day!
What about you? Are you an overworked Christmas elf or a cheery Mrs Claus at Christmas time? Will you do anything differently this year at Christmas time?