Downsizing Christmas, Upsizing Joy

December 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm , by

o-christmas-tree-pizza-recipe-photo-260-FF1298ALM3A03-1“I don’t care if we just order pizza for Christmas dinner, Mom. Please, let’s just relax!”

That’s the refrain I’ve been caroling at my mom’s house over the holidays each year for the last decade at least. Not sure if my mom ever hears me. She’s too busy frantically sticking fresh-cut greens into circles of soaked peat moss to make handmade wreaths (“they last longer”), shopping for, wrapping and delivering presents to the doorsteps of her close friends, and tackling major housecleaning projects that could have, just this once, been left to professionals (“it’s a waste of money; they never do it right”).

She’s right, of course. Wreaths do last longer when the greenery is fresh and stems are kept moist. It sure is nice to get beautifully wrapped, hand-delivered presents from your close friends. And no, housekeeping services rarely do as careful a job as you would if you had the time.

But… time. That’s exactly what I miss, as Mom stresses her way toward a perfect Christmas. Time for a cup of hot cocoa and a board game. Time to enjoy each other’s company, the way we’re able to do when we get together outside of the holidays. She does make Christmas special in a lot of ways. But, truth be told, my favorite part of the holiday is late afternoon on the 25th, after church, presents, and feasting, when we can all hang out in our comfy clothes in front of a fire and just be. Together.

I’ve tried to remember that this month. Between work, holiday events and various crises, I realized that I hadn’t made more than one or two home-cooked meals since… well, probably since Thanksgiving. If you don’t count the 5 dozen oatmeal lace cookies I made for my son’s school’s cookie-exchange party.  I was feeling pretty bad the other night, as I microwaving up yet another Amy’s frozen entrée. I love to cook! And what about the stockings I was going to hand-sew, then decorate with my son? What about making gingerbread ornaments for the tree?  Or homemade, Christmas-tree-shaped pizza? (Check out the cute photo above and the recipe, here.) I struggle not to feel like I’m failing.

And yet, frozen, store-bought pizza gave me the time to spend with my son, decorating the Christmas tree, calmly, with Christmas music and, yes, hot cocoa.  Canned soup for lunch gave us time to make those oatmeal cookies together, which is probably more his speed than decorated gingerbread men, anyhow. The other night we had leftover pasta… and we roasted chestnuts and sang holiday songs. And instead of me sewing those stockings on a rainy Sunday while he played alone, we had a rousing game of Nerf baseball. So we have drugstore stockings this year. It’s what’s in ’em that counts.

Part of me really hates to downsize my holiday plans and expectations. There have been many years when I’ve had the time and energy to go all out, Martha Stewart-style, and throw big parties, the works. I hope to do it again. But I don’t want to have to wait until after the holidays to truly enjoy them. When push comes to shove, I hope I continue to choose time over tinsel.

Do you have any favorite holiday shortcuts or substitutions to share? Does online shopping give you more time for sledding? Share your ideas below and help all of us have happier holidays!

Categories: Ladies' Lounge | Tags: | 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Downsizing Christmas, Upsizing Joy”

  1. I have found that those who didn’t manage their time wisely during the rest of the year also have time management time issues with the holidays.

    Perhaps it’s time to re-evalute what is actually giving your family a return on the dollar of time.I quit a hobby i was passionate about for 16 years and was all consuming,because i wanted time for family.Reduced the amount of volunteering that soaked up all the minutes in between.

    I finally figured out, with the help of a therapist to sort it all out, that the earth will keep spinning even without me holding it up:) However,my kids and partner won’t.


  2. The family I grew up in never had a Martha Stewart complex. We’ve always been pretty simple. We never had holiday parties or lavish homemade cookies. I can’t really relate to the articles I read about the frenzy of the holidays. Though sometimes I long for a Stewartlike Christmas, I know I’d really rather spend the time socializing with friends and family.
    We only get gifts for the kids in the family and the parents. Most gifts are in the 10-25 dollar range. Most of our holiday expense comes from traveling to get home.
    My partner’s mom is more into the frenzy however. Last Christmas, since some of the family lives in Florida, we all talked about a family Christmas cruise instead of a gathering at her house. We are doing that this year. She’ll still get to cook a lavish Christmas Eve dinner but we are leaving the rest of Christmas decorating and cooking to Norwegian Cruise Lines. Maybe this will become our new tradition.


  3. I like having Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve. My husband & I can spend quiet time together, open our gifts & spend time with the families on Christmas Day. We downsized on the gifts this year,too. Our focus was more on heartfelt, practical gifts for everyone this year. The only one we spent a little more on & got more gifts for was our 2 1/2 year old nephew. He loves Christmas & opening presents.


  4. Circumstances and financial setbacks have forced us to cut back and I am not missing the frenzy of years past. It is a relief to let go of the pressure of shopping and just enjoy the Christmas decorations, music and movies. The true meaning of Christmas and family are all that really counts.


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