With only a week left until Christmas, many people are feeling the pinch of holiday expectations cinched just a bit too tight. The first question friends ask is “have you got your shopping done yet?” There are parties to prepare for, work gatherings to attend, school plays and concerts, cookie exchanges, and family members arriving in town. Our children have high hopes, and our own childhood memories of “perfect” holidays haunt us.
Shopping yesterday was a kaleidoscope of people and manners: rushing adults, whining kids, people behaving badly in parking lots, and me-first attitudes. So many people had so much to do to find the right gift, or at least check off the box next to an obligation on their list, that they were forgetting the basic courtesies of society. We were in the midst of it all, driving and shopping with the horde, and it was almost a surprise to have a smile and a courteous wave from a few hearty souls who seemed to be having a good time.
Perfect presents, perfect decorations, perfect food, perfect experiences. A Martha Stewart Christmas. Families never fight, bows are fluffy, food is camera-ready, everybody gets exactly the present they want. It’s so easy to get carried away, and sometimes I think we all get a little crazy at the holidays. That old adage about insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) could be directly applied to this over-anticipated holiday. It takes a conscious effort to slow down and cut back, even if it means not doing all of the holiday things. For instance, it has been years since we sent out Christmas cards. When we finally let go of that Jacob Marley-esque chain, a great weight was lifted. For all my friends who do not receive a card from me anymore, you are not forgotten. It’s just that I can only do so much, and though you are still in my thoughts, I will not be sending them this year either.
Sometimes I worry so much about creating the experience for others that I can’t enjoy it myself. I want my kids to have fun, to create a few memories for them – not of perfect cookies or having the shopping done by December 7th, but of the warmth of the season, and the fact that we are together and having a great time. I’d rather be the friendly lady smiling and enjoying the holidays, waving and strolling to the coffee shop for a gingerbread latte, enjoying the twinkling lights.