The holidays can be such a wonderful, joyous, cinnamony, delicious time. You get all kinds of mail that isn’t bills and everybody is constantly trying to push cookies and alcohol on you. There should be no reason not to love this season. But, sometimes, the season bites back. You find yourself overwhelmed by all you have to do to celebrate.
That really sucks. I’ve been thinking about this issue for a long time (proof can be found here, here, and here) and I think I’ve pretty much figured out the top reasons the season turns to crap. So, here are my top seven spirit dampeners and how to avoid letting them suck the spirit out of you.
1. This holiday is expensive, yo!
First of all, if your giftee determines how much you love him/her by how much you spend, you need to find someone new to bequeath your love upon. Quickly. You know what really shows someone how much you care for them? How you treat them the rest of the year. And vice versa.
Gifts are a way to hand someone a scaled down physical representation of your bigger feelings. Just as the word ‘tree’, or even a picture of it, doesn’t really capture the real thing, so is your gift meant to be a symbol that you care; it isn’t meant to match up leaf for leaf (or dollar for dollar).
2. But my kids would be so disappointed if there aren’t a zillion presents under the tree!
There is nothing in this world as dazzling to the eyes as a Christmas tree enveloped by a wall of presents.
Well, except for all of nature.
Seriously, though, I get it. You want to create a BAM! factor Christmas morning for your kids. Lots of presents under the tree feels like magic. Who doesn’t want to give their kids magic? Bad parents. That’s who.
But, after the Christmas carnage is over, how many of those presents are either trash or shoved into the back of the closet within a month? What you’ve created is a future trip to Goodwill for yourself.
Chances are, there a couple of things your kids really want and everything else is just noise. You can teach some pretty good lessons about consumerism and respecting resources by turning down that noise.
If your kids are upset, just explain to them that Santa was watching and he was disappointed in their behavior all year... especially their ungratefulness.
3. I can’t find the perfect gift!
You want your giftee to be blown away by how completely thoughtful, insightful and downright brilliant your gift for them is. Something that says, “not only does she obviously love me, but she’s got mad gift giving skills because this gift is perfect.” Don’t be ashamed, it’s not a bad legacy to want to have.
Here’s the thing ONCE AGAIN: who it’s from is more important than what it is.
Regardless, the best way to deal with this issue is to give handmade. This sounds self-serving, but, as someone who not only makes gifts, but who goes to craft shows and Etsy shops to buy things handmade by other people’s hands, I’m here to tell you, the more human involvement in an item, the better it is.
Humans don’t like to feel like cogs in a machine, we like to feel like unique snowflakes. The best way to show someone how much you appreciate them as a unique snowflake is to give them something handmade. (Your hands: optional.)
4. I'm out of time!
We all know those jerks that brag in, like, August, that they’ve finished their Christmas shopping and then smugly sit back and laugh at all of us who are flailing around like headless (organic, free range) chickens.
Here’s the thing: you are not going to find the perfect, handmade, soul-feeding gift on Christmas eve. Rushing to the mall and panic shopping is not the answer. If time is up and you aren’t finished, let it go. Either shorten your list of giftees or get gift cards and move on with your holiday.
If you are a helpful, loving, fantastic person the rest of the year, a gift card is more of the same from such a generous person. If you are a horrible person, save your money, nothing you give matters.
“But, Heather, I can’t give my mother (sister, wife, girlfriend) a gift card.” Really? She wouldn’t love a bouquet of gift cards from her favorite places to eat and shop? Do it, and if it doesn’t work, well, there’s no pleasing that woman so just give up trying.
5. I’ve baked 80 batches of cookies, sewn 15 quilts, knitted 24 pairs of socks and hot glue gunned 40 ornaments and I bet those ungrateful bastards (aka loved ones) won’t even appreciate all the effort I’ve put into this!
Yeah, this would be the downside of a handmade Christmas (when using your own hands). If time isn’t plentiful, bitterness can sink in. If you find yourself holding the gifts you’ve chosen to make/buy against the person you're giving to, well... I’m not judging, but, you’re doing Christmas wrong.
Gifts are a token of love, not a demonstration of wealth or your culinary/crafting skills. Along with this, if you’ve ever had the thought, “Well, I spent way more on her than she did on me...” RED FLAG! Step back and re-evaluate. You might be a crappy person.
The point is, you don’t have to do it. Any of it. You can decide RIGHT NOW to be a gift card person. Or even a person that only does gifts for her immediate family, or not at all. Done. You’re welcome.
I have a certain close friend who happens to make the most delicious caramels that I have ever placed on my tongue. I look forward to them every year and brag to all of my other friends that I have perfect caramels in my life and their lives pale in comparison for not having the experience of such culinary magic.
That said, if my good friend ever decides she’s done, (*please don’t be this year*, *please don’t be this year*) my holiday won’t be ruined and I won’t think less of her for not spending hours upon hours of her holiday season in the kitchen. If I did, I wouldn’t be the kind of friend that’s worthy of perfect caramels.
6. These stupid Christmas cards are an expensive hassle!
Personally, I love Christmas cards. I go all out. SilverPixels takes gorgeous pictures of my kids and designs beautiful cards for me. I get to pick my quote and everything. My cards are a treat for myself as well as a little gift to the people I send them to. ('Cause who doesn’t want a picture of my kids? Hello?)
But, if cards are nothing but a chore for you, bail. Don’t do it. Throw up a Facebook post and call it a day. If it doesn’t add joy, what’s the point? You are not going to make or break anyone’s holiday by sending or not sending a card and it might just save yours to not do it.
7. I need to make traditions for my kids like I had or there will be no magic at all!
I’m guilty of sitting down when my kids were still babies and making a list of all of the things I should do each Christmas to create traditions for them. Things like: a handmade ornament with their name on it every year, an advent calendar with little toys instead of candy, baking cookies for Santa, making cards to send, stringing popcorn, etc.
You know what most of these things have in common? They require effort on my part. And while each thing seems small, add them together, then add that effort with all the shopping and holiday parties and regular old household chores that still need to get done, and it starts to feel like a whole lot of work. Christmas spirit fading...
I do the advent calendar. I buy store bought candy (Little gifts? Yeah, right.) and sometimes I forget to fill the drawer before I go to bed. (I filled all the drawers at the beginning of December once... ONCE.)
I tried stringing popcorn once and I kept stabbing my thumb with the needle I was using. It was painful and the popcorn was bloody. I gave up.
It turns out, the best tradition is the one where you are cheerful and relaxed for the Christmas season. If, in an effort to make Christmas perfect for everyone else it is ruined for you, well, that’s a crappy tradition, and it’s one you certainly don’t want to pass on to your kids.
Will following these steps save Christmas for you? I don't know, but it worked for me. I could be frantically trying to get a kiln load together so I can make more gifts right now. I'm not. I've told my people I'm out of pottery and I'll try to hit them up for their birthdays. I don't think I've ruined anyone's Christmas but I'm sure I've saved mine.
Just like oxygen on an airplane, you need to put on your own Christmas cheer before you can help those around you with theirs. Merry Christmas, you guys, and thanks for reading. Your attention is a lovely gift.
**Picture of calm chicken is a pastel drawing my mother did for me for my birthday. Because she gets it.
I like to throw things.