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It’s that time of year again — time for a round of blog posts, ebooks and magazine articles on how to simplify Christmas. “Simple” is a powerful word in our culture. There’s a reason Real Simple magazine is called that, as opposed to “Real Easy” or “Real Quick,” even though there’s nothing simple about $400 linen pants, and other such items that make it into the photo spreads. “Simple” taps into a narrative that we are all so busy and harried and starved for time that our fantasies require stripping life of all we can and thus achieving happiness through calm (and muted earth tones in our living room decor).
But here’s why I will not be simplifying Christmas this year:
1. Simplifying Christmas implies you were doing too much before. I’ve never channeled Martha Stewart through the holiday season. Most years I’ve done very little baking, crafting, decorating, or even extraneous shopping. I haven’t been throwing elaborate parties. Since these are all enjoyable things to do on occasion, why not use the holiday excuse to give them a try?
2. Christmas comes once a year. Related to the above point. Since I don’t feel like the rest of my life is crazy busy (because I have more time than I think), adding a little extra activity during December won’t hurt anything. I plan to make a List of Holiday Dreams, aka a December bucket list, with traditions I’d like to start. There’s plenty of time for not doing stuff in January.
3. I enjoy my children’s enthusiasm. We’re in that wonderful stage where we have three little kids who are going to be so, so excited for Christmas. Eventually they’ll become cynical teenagers, but right now they’re still into the magic. So why should their memories of Christmas be of not baking cookies because mom dislikes cleaning up? Yes, the stuffers that wind up in stockings are often silly, but it’s so, so fun to see a bulging stocking and pull treasure after treasure out. What, exactly, am I saving my energy for?
4. I’m naturally cheap. Another theme running through “simplify Christmas” literature is that we overspend in December, only to look upon our credit card bills in horror come January. Better to spend less on gifts and give fewer of them. But I have the opposite problem. Back when my 7-year-old was in daycare, I asked the center director what I should get his teachers. She said they’d probably like cash, which warmed my rational economic heart. But when I brought the cards with cash in them on the last day before Christmas, I happened to see that one teacher had kept a list of what each family had given, so she could thank them specifically and I saw that we were giving, by far, the lowest amount on there. I like being generous but have to consciously remind myself that what I consider generous is often way, way below what other people consider generous, and giving appropriate gifts is a social skill I need to learn much as I have learned to make small talk at parties.
5. I like going out. I work at home. I have three small children who have to be strapped into car seats if I want to go anywhere in the evenings or on weekends, so there isn’t that much of that. It’s not like I have so many parties that don’t involve bouncy houses that I’m going to the rest of the year. I have two dressy Saturday night parties to attend this December and I’m thrilled. Why would I not go just so I could watch TV?
Will you be simplifying the holidays? Why or why not?
In other news: A reader asked for last year’s November newsletter. I Googled it, and found a reprint on BeliefNet: “Think You’re Too Busy For The Holidays? You’re Not.” I sent it to the reader, then realized that I was on Daylle Deanna Schwartz’s page. Daylle had asked me last year if she could reprint it. The sad news here is that I got word via Facebook that Daylle passed away two weeks ago of health issues that had arisen since last year. The truth is, none of us know if this will be our last holiday season. She will be missed.