Tomorrow is the first of December, and the official (in my mind) kick off to Christmas insanity.
Generally this time of the year makes we want to crawl under a rock and hide until spring.
Not because of how crazy everyone gets, or the snow and cold, or the irritating obligation I feel to spend time with my Family Of Origin. While those things do bug me, I think my dislike of Christmas comes from somewhere deeper.
When a person has children, it becomes difficult to have a hate on for Christmas. The kids get so excited, and in past years I would do my very best to give them the most wonderful Christmas’ ever, because that’s what you do for your kids even when you don’t really feel like it. Jack is also a big lover of the holiday season, so to humor the rest of the household, I would put up the decorations and wrap gifts and make our house feel warm and festive.
Inside though, I never really got into it. I never really felt that anticipation and excitement, never looked forward to the decorating and visiting of family. Last year I don’t even think I bothered sending out Christmas cards.
My mum called me The Grinch.
I was always careful though not to be Scrooge-like in front of the kiddos, because my issues are not their issues and they need not suffer for their mothers lack of holiday spirit.
This year, something very strange has happened. Around mid-November I started to experience an unusual feeling…one that I wasn’t sure I was still capable of. I was actually getting GIDDY over the idea of Christmas being just around the corner.
No explanation. It just sort of…happened.
This year I think I am way more excited than the other members of my household combined. My tree has been up for a week, all of my Christmas cards are signed, sealed, and headed to their respective destinations as I type this. I’m almost DONE buying gifts, since I hate the last-minute scramble that seemed to be our habit in past years. I think for once we’re going to be all finished up weeks before the big day.
I’ve been wrapping and baking and trimming and shopping. I even bought Christmas albums to listen to in my vehicle! It’s totally mind boggling.
I even came up with the perfect gifts for Jack, which is no easy task, since the man has just about everything he could possibly want.
The kids, finally being old enough to understand this whole Christmas bit, were easy to shop for because they both gave us very clear lists, which they have been repeating to me 15 times a day since Halloween.
Honestly, I am sure this whole post sounds totally ridiculous, but I can’t even explain how happy I am to be loving Christmas again. It’s very odd, considering this will be our first Christmas so far away from family and friends…
Maybe that’s really it though.
Perhaps, the reason I can love Christmas again is because finally I am far away from all of the stress and pressure that comes from our (Jack’s and mine) families at this time of the year. It really was horrendous, packing up kids and gifts and traipsing around the province for umpteen days to see everyone. Honestly, by the time we got to the last place to visit, my kids would be totally disinterested in opening any more gifts or eating any more Christmas cookies.
In my family, Christmas is probably the BIGGEST and most stressful event of the year. We are talking about pulling off dinner for up to 25 people, decorations that would put Santa to shame, and so much Christmas baking you felt like you lived in a cookie factory.
Once I was old enough, my mum started foisting some of the responsibility off on me, and who could blame her? That’s a tough act to pull off at the best of times.
I think that because Christmas was not the least bit relaxing or fun (it felt like no one recovered from it until into the New Year) once I became more ‘grown up’ that it really squashed any happiness or excitement. When December 1st rolled around, it always felt like we were bracing for a tremendous disaster to hit. My mum would become completely obsessed with making everything just so. The house had to prefect, the tree had to be huge (I think our tallest ‘live’ tree was 12 or so feet high, I am serious) and we had to make enough baked goods to feed every person within 100 miles. It was totally, and completely nuts.
That really never ended once I left home and married Jack and had kids. We were always going here or there and the days leading up to Christmas consisted of packing and wrapping and last minute shopping. We would open our gifts in the morning, gulp down some breakfast, load up the kids and what seemed like 5,000 gifts for our ridiculously large families, and off we went, and we didn’t usually come home again for a 5 - 7 days. We would arrive back at our house, worn out and so sick of Christmas it was shameful, and all I could think was “Dear God, now I have to take it all down”.
This is the first year in my entire life that I am actually cooking my very own Christmas dinner. We’ve never stayed home on Christmas Day before, so it’s going to be my very own celebration, my way, without all of the anxiety over this or that or the other thing.
I can hardly wait! No dashing around in a kitchen full of 6 women, trying not to get in any ones way, while mum barked orders and Grandma corrected her every other sentence. Meanwhile the kids are tearing around hopped up on sugar and the males are all resting up for the strenuous task of eating. Or maybe getting drunk in the garage. Suddenly dinner is on and everyone and their monkey descends like a swarm of locusts. The women don’t sit down to eat, between feeding kids and refilling plates and passing the gravy 816 times. They just sort of hover, or once they sit down, they have to jump up again because more peas or buns or disgusting pistachio salad are needed.
As quickly as it starts, it ends, like a flash mob, and the men and children vanish into other parts of the house, and the women just sort of regard each other with relief, that at least that part is over, only to look around at the refuse and dishes left behind by 25 people, and there is still enough turkey to have 14 more Christmas dinners.
Does any of that sound like Happy Holidays to you? Me neither, and I’ll have none of it this year. Hooray!
For the first time in years, I am not dreading Christmas.
Padme posted a neat little Christmas Meme over on her blog, and encouraged me to do it too, so here we go!
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper for the most part. I tend to use gift bags for harder-to-wrap gifts, and for things like wine or other ‘food’ gifts.
2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial since I got out on my own. As a kid though, we always had real trees, and not the kind you buy in a parking lot. My mum or dad or grandpa would take us out on the family farm, and we would pick our own tree our, and chop it down right there. On year, when my kids are older, I am going to have a real tree, just once, so that they can know what it’s like to decorate a tree that doesn’t come out of a box.
3. When do you put up the tree? I generally try to have it up by December 1st
4. When do you take the tree down? We don’t take it down until after Ukrainian Christmas (which Jacks family has always celebrated) on January 7th
5. Do you like eggnog? Sort of, although when I think of holiday beverages my homemade drinking chocolate comes to mind more prevalently than egg nog.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? My first set of skis. We lived really close to a ski hill and I made my step-dad pay for my ski lessons the very next day.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, it belonged to my great grandmother, and I think of her ever time I look at it.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My mother. She pretty much buys herself everything that she wants, which makes gift-giving impossible. I also don’t want to get her any more knick-knacks because already she is threatening to give them all to me when she moves to a smaller house. Eep.
9. Easiest person to buy for? My kids, and V. As I mentioned, the kids are very clear about what they way, and V is easy to buy for because the perfect things seem to just present themselves to me while I am pondering what to give her.
10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? My dad gave us the most hideous dish set the first year that Jack and I were together. It was so ugly I could hardly stand it, but I put up with it for quite a few years before Jack eventually bought me a nicer set, last year for my birthday.
11. Mail or email Christmas cards? This year I mailed about 50 cards, and I don’t think I’ll be sending any by e-mail, except maybe to some of my fellow bloggers/internet pals.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Miracle on 34th Street tops the list, followed closely by How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version), and Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Generally in mid-November.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Hmmmmm, I don’t think so, because the idea of re-gifting just seems…somewhat ungrateful to me. Maybe also because, besides that awful dish set, I’ve never gotten many gifts that I didn’t like.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My grandmas gingerbread cookies, or sugar cookies.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear this year, we bought one of them thar new-fangled pre-lit trees.
17. Favorite Christmas song? Carol Of The Bells, I think because in some ways it sounds a bit foreboding (the tune anyway) but the lyrics and the overall sound is quite beautiful.
18. Travel for Christmas or stay home? Stay home! Woot! I am excited to NOT be travelling this year. Although one year, when my kids are grown and doing their own thing, I have promised myself that I will spend Christmas Day on the beach somewhere, drinking Cuba Libras and getting a tan.
19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yup, and I can say them out loud really fast (ask my kids): Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen (and Rudolph)
20. Angel on the treetop or a star? Both, depending on which tree you look at (we have two trees, it was a thing my family always did if you happened to have a basement). We have an angel on one and a star on the other.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? My family always had a tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve, after mass. That gift was always new pajamas to wear that night. The next day, bright and early, we got to open the rest of our gifts wearing our new PJ’s.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Well, now that I don’t have to participate in the chaos of Christmas at my mums place, nothing seems to be very annoying about it. Although the delays at customs with some of my review items has been a tad irksome.
23. What I love most about Christmas? Being with Jack and my kids, sharing in their excitement, really, truly being happy and joyful this year for the holiday. Also all the baking and treats are pretty alright too