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.” “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. I don’t feel like my life is crazy busy. This is true even though I’ve been traveling extensively this fall and I added a baby to the family since the last time this post ran. Since I don’t feel like the rest of my life is crazy busy, adding a little extra activity during December won’t hurt anything. For the past few years, I’ve been making lists of holiday activities I’d like to try, and each year I update the list based on what was fun the year before or what we missed but want to try. My daughter loved The Nutcracker last year, and is taking dance now, so I’ll be taking her to a matinee while her brothers are still in school. I booked some breakfast-with-Santa tickets in advance because I thought about it ahead of time, and got them before they sold out. I also managed to email the church secretary in time to get my kids roles in the Christmas Eve service. We enjoyed unwrapping a new (well, generally used) Christmas book every day during December, so that’s a go this year too. 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 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 we’ll be baking cookies even if it makes a mess. 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 8-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. Even with my travel, I’m often in my house more often than not. 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 a few dressy occasions 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?