The Season is Upon Us

At some point on Thanksgiving Day, Court said (as I think I have heard him say every Thanksgiving Day since he became an adult), “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s no stress about presents and decorations and outdoor lights. It’s just food and family.”

And as I have every year when he has said it, I silently agreed.

But when and why did Christmas become so stressful?

Oh, who am I kidding? Christmas has always been stressful, at least as long as I have lived. It’s true I didn’t find Christmas terribly stressful when I was a child, but I would bet my mother did. With four children for whom to shop, and having no sisters around to help her prepare Christmas Eve dinner or the Christmas Day turkey dinner, I’m sure she was stressed as well.

And Christmas season at the bakery was incredibly hectic, what with Christmas sugar cookies, candy, and butter braid added to the already busy mix. Now we didn’t just close up the bread bags. We added curly ribbon.

What I do know about my childhood Christmases is that the season started later, and the now-seemingly-unending marketing campaign wasn’t nearly as prevalent back then. And, of course, there wasn’t the Elf-on-the-Shelf to worry about as well. (I wrote about the Elf last year. Trouble-maker. Tattletale. All-around pain the in the behind.)

One of the main differences, I think, is that there is just so much more AVAILABLE these days. When I was little, I had a Tiny Tears doll (who was remarkable because she cried “real” tears after you fed her water in a bottle), a bride doll (who did nothing but sit on my bed as a decoration), and when I was a bit older, a doll that I called my big doll (she was maybe two feet tall) and who accompanied me to the hospital when I had surgery at age 7. I just don’t think there were that many options available.

Nowadays the number of available dolls is nearly endless. I won’t even try to name them all. However, Jen bought her granddaughter Lilly a Baby Alive doll when she was in AZ recently, and it was a complete FAIL. Two-year-old Lilly immediately shoved all of the so-called food into Baby Alive’s mouth, and Baby Alive – whose sole function, I believe, is to poop out that food – didn’t. To Walmart’s credit, they accepted Baby Alive (who by then should have been called Baby Puke because food was coming out of her mouth as opposed to, well, you know) no questions asked. Jen replaced her with a dolly with plastic hair, and Lilly seemed to like her every bit as well.

As is true with almost everything, however, we can make Christmas season as simple or as stressful as we choose. This year as Bill and I put up our Christmas lights outside, I made a decision that next year I was going to forgo the lights in favor of simply setting up angels or a Santa and reindeer that do nothing but sit on my front yard and light up. I won’t like it quite as well (I am embarrassed to tell you just how much I love to see my colored lights on my front bushes), but it will be infinitely easier.

But the real answer, I think, is that we just need to consciously make our holiday simpler. In the past few days, I have mentioned my angel tree that we keep in our living room in front of the window. For years, I also put up a Christmas tree in our family room with all the ornaments I collected over the years. A few years ago, I decided that was too much work because we take down all of our Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve so our house is neutralized before we leave for AZ on Christmas Day. But last year, I decided that I missed those lights in the room in which we actually spend time, so I went out and bought a little tabletop tree. I can put it up myself in about a minute-and-a-half.  It makes me very happy as I put on my favorite ornaments that I’ve collected over the years….

little-christmas-tree

Despite all I’ve said above, I admit that I love all of the festivities surrounding Christmas. I will, therefore, bake Christmas cookies as usual. I will sing along with my Christmas music. And I will enjoy my days with my loved ones. I will just make a bit more of an effort to remember why we celebrate Christmas at all.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.

Santa’s Elves

I think we baby boomers have a way of reinventing the joy and purity of our youth. We remember that we were able to walk to and from school each day, but forget that we would likely have preferred a ride, especially when it was 25 degrees or snow was falling. We think nostalgically about the rotary telephones, but forget that it was hard to get ahold of anybody or to get access to your family telephone, especially if you had two sisters as I do. And though card catalogs worked fine at the library, isn’t it so much easier to use a computer?

Having said that, I’m convinced that our Christmases were less stressful in 1960 than they are in 2015. Of course, I may be convinced of this because in 1960 I was 7 years old. My mother might have a different take on the whole thing.

Nevertheless, I know we got fewer gifts than our grandkids, so shopping wasn’t as chaotic. There were usually no visits to Santa Claus, at least not in Columbus, Nebraska (perhaps Columbus was the original town that Santa forgot). There were no Christmas family photos to take because Christmas cards featured the nativity scene or the Angel Gabriel, not photos. Other families probably baked Christmas cookies, but our mom didn’t. She simply brought yummy things home from Gloor’s Bakery.

I’m not actually criticizing the activities of Christmas in 2015. I like getting the photo cards and enjoy the pictures of the grandkids on Santa’s lap. I just notice that everyone seems so, well, stressed. I think there is just too much emphasis on creating the perfect Christmas. We all forget that the only perfect Christmas was some 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

113806-111676And just when it seemed that Christmas couldn’t possibly get any more stressful, someone – certainly a marketing GENIUS – came up with the idea of the Elf on the Shelf. One more thing to add to the already frenetic busyness of the holiday season, at $29.95 a pop.

For those of you who have no small kids or grandkids, or perhaps live on Mars, the Elf on a Shelf (which actually has its own Wikipedia page) was born out of a book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. A parents (or someone) reads the book to the kids somewhere around Thanksgiving. Then an elf (in the form of a plush toy) comes to the children’s house where it lives until Christmas. Each night the elf flies home to the North Pole to fill Santa Claus in on the kids’ behaviors, returning later that same night and moving to a new location in the house. In our day, we called such a person a tattle tale. Now it’s Christmas fun.

As far as I know, the elf doesn’t bring gifts, at least not yet. Certainly that is a probability for the future. But it is incumbent upon the parents to remember to move the flipping elf every night. And if they forget, they’ve got som e ‘splainin’ to do. I know. It happened to Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole. And Kaiya’s just on the edge of believing the whole magical Christmas stuff anyway. She grilled her mom and dad about their elf’s lack of movement that particular night. If waterboarding wasn’t so anti-Christmas, Kaiya would have used that method to ensure she got the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth from her parents about the elf’s immobility.

As far as I know, the Elf on the Shelf is no more successful at getting children to behave than the notion that Santa Claus is coming to town. While we all probably recall hearing threats about getting coal in our stocking, the only person I know who

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

actually got coal in his stocking one year was my dad. Those Swiss immigrants don’t mess around.

Perhaps if the Elf on the Shelf had been around in the 1980s, I would have fallen into the trap. As it was, St. Nicholas visited Court each year on December 6 by ringing the doorbell and leaving a small gift to remind us where the notion of Santa Claus began. As far as I know, however, he didn’t run back to the North Pole and tattle.

This post linked to the GRAND Social.