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hey, kid, secret history

maura @ 7:31 pm

Last week I started walking to work again (yay for anti-inflammatories!), which means that I had lots of time to think in the morning. So I thought a lot about my complicated feelings about Christmas. And I believe that I came to some sort of understanding about it all (though I don’t know that I can translate that into any kind of action).

It’s duh to even say this, but Christmas is fun + exciting when you’re a kid. When I was little, our Christmases went something like this: Decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. (Sometimes my maternal grandmother would be there, sometimes she’d be at my aunt’s house.) Presents + breakfast in the morning, not terribly rushed. Around lunchtime (after lunch?) we’d pile in the car and drive an hour or so to my paternal grandparents’ house. I can’t remember if we saw cousins then or not, but my dad’s brothers + parents all lived in the same town. Dinner there, then home.

But that was then; things are more complicated in our modern era. I have 2 siblings (and Gus has 5 cousins), my parents are divorced, Jonathan’s parents are divorced, and everyone lives in a different state. Before Gus was born we did a pretty strict every-other-year thing, but of course with all those constituencies there’s no way to avoid multiple locations + celebrations.

Once Gus came along we started trying to have Christmas morning here in Brooklyn (yo), though we haven’t always. Grandparents usually visit, but we’re not really on any kind of schedule these days. We try to arrange things on Christmas-adjacent weekends with whomever we don’t see on Christmas. And Gus’s birthday is at the beginning of December, so it often seems like a month o’ presents.

Add to that mix my increasing stinky hippieness over the past 5 yrs or so and my general dislike of (most) shopping, and it’s hard not to feel like Charlie Brown complaining about Christmas commercialism. I’ve taken some steps to try and deal with it: spending less $, doing the handmade thing when possible, and wrapping gifts in cloth rather than paper. But I still find myself thinking about big pink aluminum trees when the end of the year is nigh.

Part of it is certainly everything there is to DO. We bake cookies as gifts for extended family members, which takes a ton of (mostly Jonathan’s) time. Then there’s the gifts, the tree, decorating, wrapping, mailing, etc. There are things we could do that would take less time, but they would compromise my stingy + crunchy principles.

So what’s the solution? I don’t rightly know. The multiple extended Christmases are probably the heart of the issue for me, and the anti-consumerist hoo-ha the icing on the cake. I wish there were some way we could spend actual Christmas and the few days around it with some family each year, but maybe not run from place to place over the course of a month. And maybe that might mean not seeing some other family members right around Christmas that year, but maybe we could see them at other times? Maybe if we travelled less, the rest of the craziness wouldn’t seem quite so crazy.

But, but, but…I like seeing family at Christmas, even if it’s not on Christmas day. And I like Gus to see family too, esp. since we don’t see everyone all that often.

Maybe EVERYONE should just come to our house. 1300 square feet is plenty of room, right?

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3 comments on “hey, kid, secret history”

Anne (13 December 2008 at 7:53 pm)

I always wanted to have Xmas in Virginia but it never worked out…always on the road! (It was better than Thanksgiving, though, when everyone travels on the exact same days.)

My mom is a nut and goes overboard on everything, including holidays. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day, Xmas Eve, Xmas Day, all 12 Days actually, plus Epiphany. She tries to restrain herself but she can’t. Neither can my brother.

BUT we never did and still don’t start anything until actual Advent begins. That means just 4 weeks’ prep, no more no less. (OK, sometimes less.)

We have sad times right before the holiday, and we’re trying to create new traditions around that. So, tomorrow, instead of moping around the house, we’re going to chop down our tree. (Don’t worry, we give it back to bunnies later.)

I like the contrast of going to S.C. every other year. We went the first anniversary of Nicholas, and we all (mom and my brother, too) went the first anniversary of Mary Joy. Those years I didn’t feel celebratory at all but ended up feeling content with their scaled-back (in comparison to mom’s Who-like insanity) approach.

Em (14 December 2008 at 4:31 pm)

I’m sure that you could drive yourselves crazy trying to see four separate grandparents, but if you decide just to stay home and you are not big church-goers then what are you left with? Just presents.

maura (14 December 2008 at 10:05 pm)

It’s not the travel per se, it’s the multiple travel weekends and/or visitors over the course of a month. If we could just go to ONE place… I’m thinking of seeing that stupid-looking movie Four Christmases because it totally resonates.

Yay for chopping down trees! Hope it was fun. Gus would be totally into it, but that city kid will have to settle for mulchfest.

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