I cannot believe that another month is almost half-gone. Especially THIS month. Once again, I am late with holiday cards and to-be-mailed gifts, I have not even started shopping AT ALL, and when I look at my list of Things I Wanted to Accomplish This Year... I just want to cry.
No wonder December is such a tough month.
Going through old posts makes me realize I’ve become something of a Grinch. But only sometimes. I love so much about Christmas, but I’m definitely... Cranky about the whole holiday hoopla.
For perspective, I should point out that the religious holiday of Christmastide and the secular holiday are two different things in my mind. I *love* Advent at church, because it’s a season of anticipation and mental preparation. [The religious holiday doesn’t start until December 25, and lasts for 12 days (the 12 Days of Christmas). To be really traditional, you wouldn’t put your tree up until Christmas eve, and you’d leave it up until January 6th. We leave ours up until then, though we put it up on December 6th (St. Nicholas day).]
And generally, I do love the more secular side of the holidays, too. I love giving cards and presents, I adore the lights and decorations. I even love the music. I think where the stress comes in... well, it’s two-fold. One, we are HAMMERED by Christmas commercials, which start earlier every year, and everything retail related (which is EVERYTHING in the US) goes right along with it.
I don’t remember feeling this way while living at the ranch, but in suburbia I feel *besieged* by the holidays. I don’t know if it’s because of simple access (I lived 100 miles from any major shopping) or the general pace of life being SO much more laid back (the major Name Brands being Wranglers and John Deere), or if it’s actually gotten worse in the last 5 years. (I do believe that the recession has make the Christmas advertising about 200% more obnoxious and desperate.) I also know that for personal reasons (my Dad died at Christmas), my tolerance for the commercial aspects of the holidays has plummeted.
So I guess part of my Grinchiness is my cynicism shield going up in response to all that.
The second part... Well, I fully admit is something I bring upon myself. But I’m not alone in this.
One of my friends summed the holidays up as one big To Do list. I can totally relate to that, but apparently it’s even worse when you have kids, because not only do you have more presents to buy, you also have to make cookies/cupcakes/etc. for school parties, take the little ones to see Santa Claus at the Mall (shudder), please the in laws, give the in-laws the list of gift suggestions...
At least I don’t have that. My kids are easy to buy for. A new squeaky chew toy never goes unappreciated.
When did such a happy time of year become so stressful? I know that for me things changed after Dad died, because now I have this neurotic anxiety to make everything as Happy As Possible. But since my moving to the suburbs ALSO coincided with my increase in Grinchiness, I’m not sure that’s not related, too. Because I’ve noticed I’m not the only nutcase who gets anxiety about being happy during the holidays.
A LOT of this goes back to the media (which goes back to commercialism) that we--and I may be talking mostly about white middle class Americans in this respect--have to do things RIGHT. We have some unrealistic Martha Stewart level of Holiday-ness that we strive to achieve. Or what? The Happy Holidays Police will come to your house? I know I feel it in my present giving. I love giving presents, but I find myself stressing over giving the RIGHT present to certain people. (And please believe me when I say that I KNOW the ridiculousness of my stressing over this when so many kids will get NO Christmas presents at ALL. I stress over that, too.)
Now... the fact that I always leave things until way too late... that I can’t blame on anyone but myself. Though I thinks some of that is me digging in my heels in response to Christmas ads starting mid-November. I won’t celebrate until I’m damned ready. Unfortunately by the time I’m ready, I’m behind the rest of America.
And I guess that’s a large part of my curmudgeonliness this time of year-- I time of year that I generally DO love. In this country, we’re so lucky to be able to celebrate whatever holiday we want, in whatever way we want. I feel like, by my Holiday schizophrenia, I’m exercising my right not to go into debt or a stress-induced fugue state over trying to celebrate a joyful time of year!