If you’re like me, gentle readers, you love the idea of the holidays, but also dread them because they are a hell of a lot of hard work. When it comes to decorating, gift giving, and treat making, 99% of that hard work falls on me, no matter how my body feels or how worn out I am from trying to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules of end-of-year work projects, final exams, illnesses, snow removal (thanks, global warming!), and all the rest, even besides family gatherings. And this is with me living my appreciatively-privileged stay-at-home life – I often cannot fathom how I’d make it work if I did have a job outside my home. Add to that pile the fact that I’m adding in a new holiday to celebrate this year – winter solstice, or Yule, which takes place just days before Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year is also the most stressful time of the year for me, hands down. I’m already redlining in anxiety and ready to break the leg off a plastic reindeer to defend the perimeter of my hibernaculum against anyone who comes around demanding Christmas cheer – and December has barely even started.
We affectionately call this time of year the Running of the Christmas Gauntlet, and if I’m going to make it through the gauntlet this year with my sanity, marriage, and family connections intact, I’m going to have to take things in hand and winnow out what’s important to me from what’s expected by others. Enter our friend Detachment – the process of separating oneself from the opinions of others or the outcome of a situation – and her friend Compromise – the acceptance of lower standards through concessions on all sides, hopefully in a manner that is agreeable to all parties.
This week’s installment of the Half-Assed Christmas Method focuses on Decoration Expectations. More and more often, I find myself being the only member of my Trio putting in the hard work of taking down our everyday decorations and putting up our Christmas finery. I am always in charge of the house décor, and I take joy in decking our halls for each Sabbat and season most of the time, but with all the additional stressors at Christmas time plus the heavier layer of holiday adornment required of the season, I do not relish preparing for the onslaught/merriment without the assistance of others who expect and enjoy the benefits of the extra effort.
THE TREE: I absolutely abhor putting up this much beloved totem of the Christmas season for several reasons, most of them rooted in the fact that for many years, erecting said arbor amid the other stresses of the holiday season was a major source of conflict between me and my better half. Between painfully dragging in the box and contorting my arthritic back while I assemble the branches, wrapping the unruly beast in lights and garland before wrestling it into sparkling submission, then sweeping up the copious fallen needles and ruefully spreading Neosporin on my scratched-up hands, it is NOT my favorite activity.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy my tree – I do. I absolutely love to snuggle up to my husband on the couch after all the bitching and moaning is over and watch the lights twinkle and throw ethereal Northern Light shadows on our ceiling. Christmas trees are a big part of our anniversary memories as well, since we were married on December 22 – our wedding pictures even have backdrops of trees and wreathes rather than the traditional wedding flowers, and we’ve always enjoyed the holiday decorations when we go out for our yearly “fancy date” to celebrate. In addition, my son has always adored a big, beautiful tree – ever since he was tiny, I’ve taken him through stores to see the veritable forests of Christmas magic and watched the lights sparkle in his big blue eyes as he takes them all in.
I do have to admit, when a Christmas tree is done right, it’s pretty and cozy and wonderful. But could I be just as happy with 50% less tree and 50% less bullshit to get it there? You better believe I could be. And frankly, I think both of them could be, too. We are bumping right up against a breaking point in the Annual Salrin Trio Christmas Tree Struggle – it’s not a matter of if we change it, but when.
2018 PERFECTLY DETACHED SOLUTION: Just buy a damn tabletop tree, set it up myself, and tell the boys to like it or lump it. Believe me, I came VERRRRRY close to doing this – I hadn’t even decided not to buy a smaller tree until I was pulling into the parking lot of Michaels earlier this week.
2018 HALF-ASSED COMPROMISE SOLUTION: Just put up the damn tree we already have and set it up myself. I have done this several times in the past, pushing myself a little harder than I really should to make sure the house is decorated in a way that will make my ever-more-sullen teenaged boychild smile even just a little bit. Because frankly, I know that the number of years he’ll still be in my house and will smile at my efforts to make Christmas magic for him are very shortly numbered, and I don’t want to miss a single one of them. And my efforts have paid off already this year: the very first morning we had it up, I came down the hall to find all 6 feet and nearly 16 years of him lying on his back with his head under the tree, mechanic-style, gazing up at the fairy lights dancing like he did when he was barely old enough to crawl.
Luckily this year, my body allowed me to push through and get the job done (fueled by holiday stress-rage, granted, but sometimes anger-cleaning or anger-decorating is the way my Trio deals with situational frustration – there are worse coping methods!). However, there will soon come a year when my body does not allow me to do so, and to prepare for that year, I’m going to shop for a small tree during the after-Christmas sales this year. That way I’ll have one in the garage, primed and ready, for when I draw the line. It’s not a perfect compromise by any means – it’s a flat-out sacrifice of spoons and time on my part, but it’s for my kid, man. I’ll go a long way for that.
NOSTALGIC KNICK-KNACKS: There are a few items that I will always want to put out, like my great-grandma’s tiny white tree with colored lights, the Precious Moments doll my oldest brother gave me years ago, and the Jij Bent Klootzak card my middle brother crafted so lovingly for me (yes, it means “You’re a Nutsack” in Norwegian). But I own a lot of other items I’ve collected over the years that I’m just tired of wrestling with at the moment.
2018 PERFECTLY DETACHED SOLUTION: Don’t bring things inside – just give them the year off.
2018 HALF-ASSED COMPROMISE: Some of them I’m carrying over to put out after Christmas, but still during the Winter Sabbats – my crystal evergreen trees and snowmen will serve very well for a change at the end of the Yule season and Imbolc, and delaying their deployment into the house saves me time, energy, and clutter.
Other bric-a-brac needs to be winnowed down, though, and this is the year to start for me:
Nutcrackers: I have a collection of nearly 100 nutcrackers that has now taken on a life of its own. Some years I honestly feel guilty enough to put them out even when I don’t want to because I feel like they’ll be lonely out in the garage during the one time of year they ever get any attention (that’s on me – my personification of objects often gets me into attachment trouble). I also feel guilty if I don’t put them out because they were almost all gifts from my dad, who still likes to give his little girl a doll for Christmas.
2018 PERFECTLY DETACHED SOLUTION: Leave the damn things in the garage. Just don’t even open the tubs. The chances of my missing them are very, very slim – and if I do miss them, I’ll get over it very quickly. (So will Dad, who only comes to the house once during the season.)
2018 HALF-ASSED COMPROMISE SOLUTION: Put out 6 or fewer nutcrackers – just the ones with particular sentimental attachment, like Nikolai (my first, from my oldest brother), Sirius (one of the first gifts my husband bought for me), and Gordo (the special gift my dad gave me to celebrate my Masters graduation separate from my wedding on the same day). That will give me and my dad the tradition and the nostalgia without overwhelming my house or my energy level.
Little-Boy Toys: My son has always been crazy about Christmas, so we definitely overindulged him with lots of holiday-specific toys, like an entire village and nativity of Fisher Price’s adorable Little People, plush Rudolph and Grinch characters, Christmas books, and other assorted playthings. These occupy at least one HUGE plastic tub out in my garage, and again with the attachment, sometimes I feel guilty about leaving them out in the cold during the season when they used to be most loved. In years past, we pulled out a bare minimum of the Little People sets – specifically the ones that played the music and had the lights he loved as a baby – and set them around the living room, where he would push their button exactly once to please me and then they gathered dust for the season.
2018 PERFECTLY DETACHED SOLUTION: Again, leave the damn things in the garage. I know my son has outgrown the items – that’s finally not in question, and I will no longer baby him by forcing him to pay attention to them even when if did bring them inside. However, I’m also not ready to get rid of them yet because I want to save them for any future grandchildren he may give me (or great-nieces/nephews that come to visit – no pressure on the kiddo as long as I have grandsomethings to play with). 😉
2018 HALF-ASSED COMPROMISE SOLUTION: Visit the toys out in the garage. While I was hauling in Christmas décor this year, I took a minute to crack open the Toys Tub and just enjoy the toys myself, outside. I gave the Grinch a hug, petted the Little People, and flipped through an I Spy book that he loved. It gave me a minute to be nostalgic and remember the sweet little boy Christmasses we loved so much, when Santa visits were magical and we watched his progress on NORAD’s website and left out cookies and milk and all that good stuff. But then, I PUT THE TOYS AWAY and moved ahead. This was the first year I’ve managed to do that, and frankly, I’m kind of proud of myself.
So that’s how I’m trying to cut down on holiday overload this year, at least in the decoration department. How do you handle your holiday decorations and avoid overwhelm? Let me know in the comments, or join us in the Half-Assed Circle to talk about it. Until next time!