Monday, 30 November 2009

It's Not (Quite) a Wrap



I’ve been lost down the rabbit hole of Christmas preparation these past few days . . . or should I say weeks. Yes, I know it’s not even December, but I belong to that set of crazed Christmas groupies who believe that the tree should go up the weekend after Thanksgiving. I’m not as organized as my friend who likes to get her shopping done in the January sales, (does that seem slightly not in the spirit of the thing?), but I do like to have my shopping done by the end of November . . . if at all possible. The less time I have to do a thing, the less pleasure I will take in it. (Christmas cards come to mind, for one example.) Sometimes, during this festive time of the year, a person does have to consciously work at the enjoyment part.


Do you love Christmas or loathe it?

The other week, as I was musing on simple pleasures, I happened to mention my delight in the steadily growing pile of wrapped presents . . . and it seemed to touch a nerve in certain people. Christmas should not feel like a competitive sport, but frankly, it can give a person the sense of being a pathetic straggler in an impossible race.

I openly confess to being a Christmas lover, but I have nothing but empathy for those who loathe it. What’s not to loathe, really? It’s expensive, stressful and emotionally loaded in all kinds of ways. It can also be the time-burning equivalent of a full-time job. The other day I was talking to a friend about various ideas and projects, and she kept repeating this refrain: It will have to wait until after Christmas. She would like to look for a part-time job, but in December she already has one.

I wonder how many people, particularly women, feel like they are the cruise directors on the Christmas Boat?   Here's hoping that we can bring that holiday in on time and on budget . . . and keep everyone (not least of all ourselves) happy.  At a certain point, does the pleasure in Christmas become mostly vicarious?

43 comments:

An Open Heart said...

I love Christmas, even when it gets overwhelming. I don't think there has ever been a time when I didn't just adore it....even when I'm broke and have to come up with extremely imaginative gifts for my loved ones. I love the decorating, the quest for the right gift and the cooking, baking and the festivities that showcase all of those things.

I do understand how overwhelming it can be and have empathy for those who don't love it....especially those who have emotional things come up....I have my own periodically and although I might find myself melancholy occaisionally, I cannot fathom a year without Christmas!


S

Sarah Laurence said...

You always ask such reflective questions, Bee. It’s a good thing to think about as we all rush about in our preparations. I’m happy to hear that you are ready and will enjoy your holiday.

I have mixed feelings, but overall welcome that bright day with the cheerful tree after the longest night. Christmas was such a joy as a child, and I love seeing that in the eyes of my children and my niece and nephews. And then there are lovely traditions, like our neighborhood Christmas song party that we look forward to every year.

One sad Christmas Eve my beloved first dog died so I always feel a little sad, remembering that. I also have mixed feelings about the holiday, being half Jewish. Most people assume everyone celebrates it. It never made sense that people should be charitable just then and not all year round. I wish it weren’t so commercial and based on expensive presents.

I’m usually more of a last minute shopper, but this year I had to get ready early, and it was less stressful. Perhaps I should follow your lead on that. Looking at the month ahead of me, Christmas is not a problem. Through hardship, you learn to appreciate what it is you have instead of wanting more. Happiness is measured in health and in love, not in objects. Perhaps the best Christmas gift ever would be contentment.

willow said...

Yes, I'm the cruise director on the manor Christmas Boat! Around here, I'm fondly known as Mrs. Santa. But, seriously, I enjoy it. I'm also one who likes to get the shopping done at least three weeks before Christmas. I used to do all my holiday baking in October, but that has slipped by the wayside. The tree is not up yet, though. :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh, I sit squarely in the I Love Christmas camp. Like you, are trees are up...we even have one in the bedroom which is beyond wonderful... and my shopping is done. I love this time of year. So much.

Beth said...

You hit a nerve with this post, too. I haven’t even started my Christmas prep – still playing catch-up with other to-do lists. This year, I have finally asked for help. Lots of it. And now I’m wondering – do women put this sort of pressure on themselves? Are we reluctant to ask for help for fear of relinquishing control? Everything may not be done exactly to my usual standards this year but I am so happy to have delegated some of the jobs. By doing this, I am going to find that Christmas spirit of mine! I think perhaps I already have. :)

Cláudia said...

In my country it has been a really hot November...

Christmas and summer go hand in hand here in Rio. You have no idea how annoying it is to buy gifts while sweating madly. We also "borrowed" the European Christmas traditions such as eating berries and nuts while waiting for a Santa who will arrive shaking the snow flakes off his winter coat ...hahaha

That's why I don't like Christmas very much... But I do like to have the family gathered together. I just wanted it to be more adapted to our tropical weather!

ArtSparker said...

I like dystopian novels and films at this time of year - one thinks of M.R. James' Christmas Ghost stories. It's good if you have kids, I think.

rxBambi said...

Put me in the "lover" camp as well. I've started getting things ready, but it's not totally finished. Shopping is half way done, that's pretty good for end of november I think :)

Meri said...

I find that all the pageantry isn't as compelling now that I am a no-longer-married woman whose children are all launched in the world. I did have fun yesterday with my toddler grandson, 18 months old, who I asked to help me decorate the lower branches of the tree. I handed him things that wouldn't break and let him put them wherever (sometimes with a little help getting the loops and hooks over the branch). And I laughed a lot when he'd take the globe ornaments, cock his arm back and heave them, yelling "ball!" Yes, indeed. Ball.

Marcheline said...

I love it, but I am often nearly overturned by lack of fundage and holiday malaise each year.

What works for me is to just start DOING Christmas things. Put on the music. Get Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed on the DVD player. Drag the decorations out of the attic and put them up.

Even if we can't afford to buy lots of new stuff or presents, we have plenty of decorations and movies and music from holidays past, and it's the memories that make it great.

rachel said...

Christmas used to be so stressful for me, as my mother and my son were both such grumps about it, and sort of egged each other on. I had to work to keep a little flame of enjoyment going in the teeth of their negativity. After my mother died, Christmas became the one time that I didn't miss her... I know how awful that sounds, but it's true. Now I just do what I like: a festive mantel, whatever food I decide on, Christmas-traditional or not, and above all, a very relaxed day, and my Scrooge-like son finds that he enjoys it! But I learned a lesson about trying too hard...

Polly said...

I do like Christmas but as I'm usually a guest at my parents house I don't enjoy that much. There is nothing wrong with going home for Christmas, but I think I would enjoy it much more if I could do it at my own home, with my own family.

But I did manage to sort out all my Christmas presents well in advance, in Vietnam, and they're good! 3USD for a silk tie, 12USD for a jade necklace... it'll be socks next year, but this year I'm winning the daughter of a year award.

Emm said...

I don't hate Christmas but it certainly isn't what it used to be when I was a child or even before I got married. I can't seem to recapture that magic and so Stephen and I try to do as little as possible.

Golden West said...

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the lights, sights, smells and sounds! I know a lot of people decry the commercialization of the season, but one can chose to not participate in that aspect. One way to make the season happy to is lower or banish expectations and comparisons to other years, and just enjoy each day leading up to Christmas on its own.

Reya Mellicker said...

I used to loathe them, but now I enjoy the holidays. As a Jew, Christmas itself was always a weird day, especially here in the U.S. Once I figured out it is simply one of the ways to celebrate the winter solstice, and after I learned how perfect it is to watch Hugh Grant movies all day long, I actually came to enjoy it.

My gift giving is sporadic, maybe even spastic is the right word, but the gifts I get, the cards I send, are given sincerely.

If you like it, that's GREAT!! Enjoy the season, Bee.

Christina said...

I adore Christmas! It's a beautiful time of year. I made little peanut butter cup candy for everyone and they loved it.
This time of year can encourage volunteer work, that just becomes part of our lives. I love that.
xoxo

jane said...

i´m a lover. i just take it one day at a time... it seems to work... that, and celebrating the holiday at my in-laws... :)

Amanda said...

Just back from doing some Chrsitmas shopping - looking in vain for some pretty glass baubles to replace the inevitable casulaties but they're mysteriously hard to find this year - and laughed at your blog. I love Christmas too, but it all depends on how organised you are. However, I feel terribly sad for those coping with bereavement and other sorrows because they are more acute.

Star said...

I think we have to ask ourselves, who does the present shopping? who does the cooking? who makes the lists? who packs the presents? Who ha the most stress? I guess the answers are 'the women'. It is we who perpetuate the work because it is we who enjoy doing it. It is very hard work but also very rewarding. Do you give yourself a treat when it's all over? You should.
Blessings, Star

BumbleVee said...

I love the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas... the candles....the sparkles.... the decorating....and of course, the baking! I love to send a big box of baking for my sister and her gang... she doesn't have time or inclination for baking... '

We agreed years ago not to send gifts to members of each others families....postage becomes a factor.. plus.... who ever gets the right size, colour or object? It is more fun to buy ourselves a little gift instead.... send cards....and just enjoy the season....

Catalyst said...

Last year, we had to put up a tiny Christmas tree on top of a bookcase because Jazz was fascinated with it and the baubles down lower, finally tipping it over with a crash.

I think our best Christmases were when we lived as ex-patriates in Mexico and spent them with the new friends we had made. No family squabbles in that situation.

I think the holiday is what you bring to it.

Lisa said...

I'm not a lover or a loather, but I am going to enjoy Christmas this year even if it kills me.

Now, doesn't that sound lovely?

I'm almost done with the gift part and the decorating is done. Well, I do want to go out and snip some holly, but that's easy.

I enjoy the break of Christmas, the ability and excuse to do nothing at all. In our house, that's what Christmas is. Well, except for the whole celebrating Christmas AND Hanukkah bit.

I hope you have a good holiday season, Bee. Really, enjoy!

spudballoo said...

I love it, but I wish I could get more on top of the shopping. Every year I swear it will be done by the end of November the following year and it never is. So December is miserable, and that's a shame as I'd like December to be about making things, looking for new decorations etc etc rather than running myself ragged with shopping, card writing, trips to post office etc. URGH! x

Relyn said...

Oh, I completley love Christmas. Definitely.

The less time I have to do a thing, the less pleasure I will take in it. I had to laugh at that. It is SO not me. I am a completely last minute girl. About nearly everything. Not about the tree and trimmings, but about most things. I love that pressure - gives me an edge. ha.

Sandra said...

An irony. I came here from julochka's post on simplicity. Sometimes you can't make this stuff up!

I am ambivalent about the holiday. I enjoy the pretty things, but don't have a crushing urge to do 'Christmas'. So I guess I am not a lover of Christmas, but only an observer. : )

Fantastic Forrest said...

I love Christmas songs and movies and decorations and food. Food like fruitcake (I am not joking! Harry and David make a killer one.) and glugg and rumballs and my Grandma's butter cookies recipe and turkey and eggnog and peppermint ice cream.

As our family has shrunk over the past few years (parents and aunts and uncles dying) the gift giving has become more and more simple. Some day, when our kids have their own families, I'll have to do more shopping, but for now, things are easy.

I don't think you're crazed about getting your tree up over this past weekend. That's a good time to do it! Do you use fresh or artificial? Can you go out to the woods to get one, or do you buy one from a farm?

Baino said...

G'day Bee popping back to see what you're all about. I love Christmas but this year due to circumstances beyond my control I'm finding it so hard to get my act together. My favourite is Christmas eve, women of three generations in the kitchen preparint little entree plates and desserts. Me being the boss of course and champagne flowing until we just can't cook anymore! Christmas is also a little reflective. My husband and parents are no longer with us but for the first time in a long time, we have the full family complement, about 18 of us home for Christmas. Now I must get my skates on and become inspired to decorate and shop!

Nimble said...

I admire your accomplishments Bee and your commitment to doing ahead so you can thoroughly enjoy the month.

I love Christmas but not the excess. I love to sing xmas carols and start in November. I like lighting candles and having special decorations to help us find joy in the dark of the year. I love the quiet of Christmas eve and still enjoy the baby in the manger story.

This year as time and $ are again short I will be taking Christmas moments as I find them. My husband and I buy gifts for our kids and each other and our moms and that's about it. I'll also be taking the girls shopping for an 'angel gift' for an eleven year old girl through our church.

I'm getting over being sick so I know I can't do Everything. I'll try to make what I do meaningful and not crazy.

Lucy said...

That you are not a procrastinator is amply shown by the way you blog so well and clearly live a full and effective life!

I do like Christmas. It's much simplified now family ties and obligations have loosened or dwindled naturally, though of course there's many who'd say I'm the worse off for that. I shop little: Amazon and other MO acquisitions start to be hoarded for Christmas, so sometimes they're even forgotten about and are a surprise, which is nice, Tom's grandchildren get euros in coloured envelopes since they got bigger and I exhausted all the possibilities of Barbar dolls and Playmobile (they always preferred Disney anyway), and local folks get home-made food. I get into a kind of cooking frenzy where I almost can't stop, which I love, but the cooking on the day, if it's just us - sometimes we invite people but not every year, we take quite easy.

Otherwise it's just the cards, which are a bit taxing but we usually share it and do it in a burst fairly early in the month. I feel quite lucky really.

Claudia's comment was interesting, I'd hate to have to do Christmassy things in the heat like that.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Love Christmas! Though it usually does bring on a mild panic attack. Having to shop for 4 kids and meet at least some of their expectations is often overwhelming and expensive, not to mention the presents for everyone else. But, still I love it. It's a beautiful holiday and full of cheer and lights and treats. Also, being religious, I enjoy taking the time to think of Jesus Christ and his gift to me. It always, always touches me.

Jan said...

It's the crazy things...the pudding that slithered all over the kitchen, the time you all overslept and didn't eat lunch till 7,the Xmas Aunty R fell into the Xmas tree, the Xmas you waited for someone to come home..

Pam said...

I think I'd enjoy Christmas more if I lived in a cold climate with snow, and somewhere that went all out like Norway, Sweden or Germany.Here in Australia it's a bit hit or miss with battling for car parks in searing heat, and hot traditional fare, versus a relaxing barbeque.If you love cooking, shopping and family get-togethers I guess Christmas is enjoyable. I prefer the holiday aspect - the snoozing and the reading.

Kim Living Life said...

I am so with you on the point that most of us women have to run the show. This year for the first time we did the draw a name from a hat and buy for that one person only. what a burden off me, only one person to mull over in my mid and I drew one of my twin daughters who has asked for funds to take her post Christmas trip to the other side of Australia, how easy is that. Now don't stone me I am adding a little to the cash ok, or it really wouldn't be Christmas. Good on you for being so organised.

Kristen In London said...

I love Christmas and would have to say I find it quite encouraging that every year I'm really very much in the mood to decorate, even though by January 1st I just want it all to disappear. Somehow it's heartwarming to me that I can recover every single year and see the whole experience through fresh eyes.

Until the needles begin to fall, that ...!

Anne said...

I love Christmas--the lights, the food, the music--but you're so right that it's stressful and expensive. I admire your determination to complete your shopping by the end of November! If I'm on the ball, by the end of November I've started thinking about what I'm getting for people.

I did get our tree up and decorated in record time, but I've just this morning realized that one of my ideas for homemade gifts needs some major modification... to say nothing of other gift projects I have planned, but not started. One thing at a time.

Merisi said...

I love Christmas, and I love it even more this year because I will not waste time shopping for presents.
I decorate the house, the tree, bake cookies, do all the Christmas cooking, all of which I enjoy doing. The weekend before Christmas we will all sit down with cookies and wrap the present we each got for ourselves. I have little surprises that I collected over the year for the children.

Relyn said...

Knock, knock??

Dick said...

On balance, I think I've pretty much had it with Christmas. I'm not a believer so - beyond sharing certain basic moral precepts - its spiritual significance has no meaning for me. I loathe with a passion the suffocating artificiality and cloying, exploitative sentimentality of its commercial trappings. And, as one born on December 25th a long time ago, I am conscious each yuletide of the passing of the years.

All of which bah-humbuggery having been (sincerely) expressed, my young children love it and that brings me joy - for all that much of their pleasure arises from mass acquisition!

Anna said...

I love Christmas, but I hate shopping. I really think that Christmas should be for children, and now here in Canada we even by treats to pets. I just like nice getting together, that is why I love love Xmas. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bee, they are wonderful. Anna :)

Merisi said...

All wrapped up yet? ;-)

Maggie May said...

i vacillate.

Nancy said...

I'm happy as long as I don't have to shop the week before Christmas. Too hectic. By then I just want to enjoy the spirit of the holiday.

Cait O'Connor said...

I am late to this and I am probably in the minority being a loather. I loved it when the children were small and Father Christmas called by but not now. It is all about consumerism and enforced jollity.
I get quite excited when it's all over though.