What I don’t love about the holidays? The retail world trying to convince me to begin celebrating a good 3 months earlier. Not just Christmas, either: the grocery stores are putting out Halloween candy at the end of August (You just know that's last year’s candy, trying to get pushed out the door for the new stuff). There are sales on kitchenware, ingredients and fancy paper supplies in September for Thanksgiving. In October, the malls are putting up their fake Christmas trees and turning their background speaker music to horrible Christmas Muzak. In freaking October! I know we’re in the midst of an economic downturn or whatever finance-speak is for a horribly managed government budget, but come on. Does business really go up if you start celebrating in June?
I refuse. For me, Christmas doesn’t start until after Thanksgiving and I keep it that way, no matter what my kids think (though, when they call me the Christmas Grinch, it does break my heart a little). What about Halloween? There is so much more than trick-or-treating on one day. There are scary movie marathons to be watched - pumpkin patches to visit, where you go on scary hayrides and pick out a pumpkin to carve - scary stories to tell before bed - elaborate costumes to put together to freak out the small children of your neighborhood.
Why are we giving Thanksgiving short shrift? I love Thanksgiving – spending time with my family in a confined space, while I yell at the Lions playing on TV and the house smells like turkey and gravy – awesomeness. It really makes me miss my family in Michigan, but I like to think that we are yelling at the Lions and being disappointed together, despite the miles apart. We participate in food drives and donate clothing to shelters for the upcoming cold months. We talk about being thankful - Baz is usually thankful for trains, Tom is currently thankful for the Redskins.
I do not participate in Black Friday. I was an unwilling retail drone who had to sell and take returns for far too long to EVER even consider shopping within a crowd of insane women at 1am on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Plus (and again, I’m Mean Mommy to other mommies who will Do Anything For the Fruit of Their Womb), there isn’t anything my kids want that I would wake up at 1am, go wait in line and fist-fight with other women for. The only thing I would consider would be food. If we were living in some post-apocalyptic future, where Black Friday shopping has turned into a reality show for families and the Moms are the stars, because we have to fist-fight for tv ratings and food for our families - then yes, I would fight in the middle of the night for food. But thankfully, we are not reality-tv ready and we also can afford food.
The husband and I have agreed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our Christmas-decorating time. We get in a full month of holiday revelry and then we take the decorations down the Saturday after New Year’s. This way, we can fully appreciate the Christmas letdown and bitter resentment of no holidays or celebrations in January.
On Saturday, we unload all of our boxes from the attic and take them down to the basement. Baz’s interest is primarily the train we set up around the tree – Belle loves the ornaments and finding just the right place to put them on the tree. I make hot chocolate and we put on a great Christmas movie – this year, we started off with “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” (I forgot how much cussing there is in that movie. WOW.) Tom gets the tree set up and the lights hooked up – Belle and I get all the ornaments out and make sure nothing is broken or missing a hook, etc. Baz pretends to help and shoots covetous looks at the train in its box. We hang up our stockings on the mantel over the fireplace and add all of our Christmas snow globes and stuffed animals and nutcracker figures.
The kids and I trim the tree – I take a couple of breaks in the middle to take pictures for our calendar/Christmas cards (Tom thinks our camera hates him – I’ll expand on that later). After all the ornaments and the star are on the tree, Tom and Baz set up the train on the floor, around the tree. When the tree is done and the train’s set up, we sit back and admire the view. We drink our hot chocolate and finish watching the movie, all together in the basement. We usually have something special for dinner (Takeout, oh yea!) and that’s our Saturday After Thanksgiving. One of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Another favorite tradition? Giving gifts to friends and family. This is not the same as shopping. I don’t like shopping. It begins so nice and ends in a guilt-ridden shamefest. I love GIFT-GIVING. I get excited about how much Baz would love this really cool Lego set to build and how he will play with it for hours and I’ll break my ankles stepping on them. I found several different craft sets for Belle and I can’t wait to see what she will come up with – hopefully it won’t involve drawing on the walls or furniture (yes, she’s 9 and still wants to draw on walls and furniture). Tom is more difficult – not that he’s not into anything; he is just particular in his choices. He’s what my friend Red calls a “spoiled, only-child of divorce.” Tom knows specifically what he wants and has specific plans for those things - if what you find is off by just a small detail, the whole thing still Does Not Work. But I can usually come up with something and, if anything, I like the challenge. Investigating new techy things or puzzle books or other stuff he’s into – it’s kind of like a mystery.
We’ll spend the weeks leading up to Christmas doing our favorite things: watching our favorite specials together, listening to Christmas music, going to the concert at the kids’ school, thinking up gifts we would like to get for friends (usually involving something baked or special hot chocolate mix), baking Christmas cookies and reading our favorite Christmas stories. I like to take the kids’ ice-skating – Tom refuses to join in, claiming he can’t skate. But they can’t skate, either, so his argument is worthless. I take turns helping them around the ice and when we get home, I tell him I can’t make dinner while lying down on a heating pad. We keep coming up with weird little traditions and I love it because I had no traditions growing up and now – I have traditions with my family. Excellent.
So why would I want to hurry things up? Make Christmas start earlier and last longer? People, we’re talking about quality, not quantity here. I can only take 1 month of Christmas. I have nothing more to give – I can’t be festive and cheery nonstop for 4 freakin’ months! I can only love and appreciate human existence on a regular basis for so long. The entire month of December nonstop is enough. So, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – I wish you and your family a happy holiday of whatever you celebrate. Christianity, Judaism, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Retailism, Genericaa – I hope its fun and tradition-y. Just keep it in December, so I don’t shoot anyone.