Mine is a family steeped in Christmas tradition dating as far back as I can remember. We have decorated our tree, once a huge live tree until 1991 when my dad dislocated his shoulder falling off the bleachers at my junior high basketball game, ever since a big-fakey, but still amazingly beautiful. There are holiday traditions that I treasure and will always perpetuate, and there are traditions that, by necessity….geography, having small children who run through the Christmas decorations like linebackers, and one kid who floats Hallmark ornaments in the bathroom sink, and…time, have subsided a bit. It’s not that these traditions aren’t important to me, or that I’ll never pick them back up again. But for now, I’ve learned to take a frozen page of Elsa’s bio and “let it go.” Here are a few Christmas things I have let go over the years.
1. I Am Super-Lazy With Our Elf. I’ll admit it…I’ve even written about it, which you can see here. Would I love to be super mom and have a charmingly mischievous elf whose messes and mayhem I clean up each day after the kids scuttle off to school? Sure. But as it stands, I clean up approximately 28 messes per day on average, and I’m certainly not going to work really hard to create an adorable elf scenario and then have to clean it up the next day…for the next 28 days. Our elf sometimes writes notes to the kids and hides up high for fear of becoming decapitated or the dog’s chew toy. At this…he drops the mike and flies away.
2. I Buy Cheap Christmas Cards. Every year, I swear that “this is the year I’m not going to cheap out.” I tell myself that this is the year that our Christmas cards will have professionally taken pictures which are then translated onto beautifully thick paper that is, preferably, cut into an intricate pattern (costs extra, don’tcha know?) and probably at least a 5×7 size so that I can also pay extra postage. Please note the attached card from Rich, Liz, Betty, and Rob (Shutterfly image, not our friends!). Kids are adorable, card is expensive: 5×7, fancy cut, maybe even some glitter thrown on there. And then you see our card (this is only part of it…still haven’t sent them). I took the pictures. Do you know how hard it is to get three kids to look at you, much less smile all at the same time while being still enough to be photographed. I sort of managed it on Thanksgiving morning, uploaded the pictures to Walgreens (now this is a company who knows how to mark things up and then give lots of coupons to make you think you’re getting a good deal…) but whatever. I send it to Walgreens, load in my 50% off, and they’re printed an hour later. And as much as I love the tradition of sending Christmas cards, I would rather spend the extra money on other aspects of Christmas.
3. Stocking Stuffers. I am perennially crappy at this. As a kid, I always wondered why Santa used the same presents in our stockings over and over, and when I asked my mom about it, she came up with a brilliant answer that I can no longer recall. But now, the box of stocking stuffers that show up every single year (we have a Fraggle driving a pickle car that my brother and I got from a Happy Meal sometime in the mid-80s, for goodness’ sake)…has been passed to me. So Mom, if you’re reading, please hook me up with the good stocking stuffer explanation when you’re here this weekend. And…I think this trait may be genetic, so I might get a little pass for that.
4. In Defense of My Non-Fussy Christmas Tree… Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the beauty and sheer effort it must take to put together a decorator-worthy tree. But my tree is meaningful, holds irreplaceable memories, and to me is the most beautiful tree on earth. All people should feel this way about their trees! My 9.5-feet slim, formerly pre-lit tree, while engineered and assembled somewhere in China, can bring me to tears if I look at it too closely. It has ornaments from my childhood, ornaments that my beautiful guardian angel Grandma Betty lovingly picked out for my every year of my life until she was too sick to do so, things my children have made, ornaments from dear friends, and ornaments that Jeff and I have collected together over the years. Jeff, quite possibly, may be more sentimental about our tree than I am, and that’s saying something, folks. So…while I do appreciate the designer trees, I prefer to go all Charlie Brown and love the tree that our history made.
5. Wrapping Presents Perfectly. My husband Jeff is a touch OCD, and I think he dies a little inside when he sees me wrap Christmas presents. Many years ago, I read a Dave Barry article that had me crying I was laughing so hard about…wrapping Christmas presents. It basically covered the idea that men do not understand the concept of wrapping paper. Well, Jeff skipped that lesson growing up, and he wraps presents like any OCD person would…perfectly. Dave Barry, on the other hand, understands my wrapping perspective like we were separated at birth. Below are pictures of a present I wrapped last night. To his credit, Jeff only winced a little, but I have a bet going with myself that, sometime before Christmas, he will tire of walking past the poorly wrapped offering, and re-wrap it himself. I myself do not see the point. Regardless of its perfection, the paper will end up in the recycle bin. I feel the same way about cake decorating (it will still taste good), making individual appetizers (seriously, who has time for that? I’m a chips and dip girl), and parade floats (one-hour-wonder).
Here are, briefly, a few things I will hold dear at Christmas.
- Collecting meaningful ornaments
- Perpetuating the magic of Santa as long as possible…like, ’til they’re 30
- Getting pet presents, a fishing rod toy for our cat and a big bone for our dog
- Buying toys and clothes for kids in need…angel tree shopping is way better than shopping for people who already have it all
- The beautiful hand-knitted stockings made by my Grandkeyes
And now, I’ll close. I would love to hear the traditions that you keep and let go! And I have to clean up what happened while I was writing this. See why I’m lazy about the elf? Car nativity scene, by Tate.