Nightmare Before Christmas

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and now it's over.

I like Thanksgiving for the same reasons many do.

My great aunt has cooked the enormous turkey for my extended family of 20 for each of my 33 years, along with numerous side dishes, which my grandma also makes. I make the pies (two pumpkins and a pecan were on the menu this year) and for the most part, I enjoy the company of my crazy yet incredibly loving and generous family.

And most importantly, there is no gift obligation.

But now it's over, and the race until Christmas is on. Of course, the stores in my area put up their Christmas displays the day after Halloween, which is revolting. I loathe the idea that October through late December is entirely swallowed up by a push for mass consumerism.

I wish I enjoyed the Christmas season more. I wish I could somehow rediscover the spirit of the holiday season, or at least not want to plow down every fake tree and ornament display with my cart when I go grocery shopping every Friday.

I feel like I write this post every year. And looking back, it seems that I do. The annual Excel Spreadsheet of Debt, whose current iteration dates back to 2004 was unearthed for the first time this season earlier in the week. I made several gift purchases on Cyber Monday, but I have many, many more to go. I must buy for more people than anyone else I know. My family is huge, and we exchange gifts with most of them. The pressure and stress and time commitment associated with this is huge.

This morning, I'm chasing my coffee with Xanax because later today, we will be attempting a holiday card photo shoot with one camera-phobic three-year-old and two 13-month-olds who do not occupy the same square inch of flooring twice in one day and whose personality traits lean more toward "irritable" and "explosive" than "angelic" and "accommodating."

Although, last year's shoot went so well, I'm not sure what I'm so nervous about.

Perhaps it was our attempted Thanksgiving photo shoot.

So, yeah. Not looking forward to Christmas or the holiday season in general, but currently accepting any and all suggestions for removal of the black veil of death I usually don this time of year.

Do you do anything to re-capture the spirit of the holidays, or do you wish the calendar skipped from November to January as I do?

20 Responses to “Nightmare Before Christmas”

  1. # Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Sweetie, it's all about relaxing and not caring about getting the perfect gifts. If you are giving someone a gift, fine. Buy or make them something simple and move on. Focus on making something with your kids. Paint their hands or pick out the tree together or whatever it is that is special to YOU. Yes, I get stressed, but I have gotten SO much better over the years and I really, truly enjoy December now. In fact, I just wrote a Chicago Moms Blog post about it... heh. Good timing.

    Sending you patience and many, many chill pills. Relax! Enjoy!  

  2. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    This morning we let the kids start with their advent calendars. After a brief explanation to the older one, on why there was an advent calendar (so you can count the 'sleeps' till Christmas) and a bold faced lie that Santa magically visited the house every night in the run up to Christmas in order to supernaturally place the chocolate in said advent calendar, the older one, after having his day 1 and day 2 chocolates (yes we started a day late) threw such a major grump session, (because he couldn't eat all of the chocolates RIGHT NOW) that I completely lost it...

    You WILL put a smile on your face!
    You WILL enjoy the holiday spirit!
    Then I realised just how ridiculous I sounded. My husband was actually laughing at me. But MAN I was SO PISSED that the kid couldn't at least crack a freakin' smile, or show an ounce of gratitude. He's not spoiled by any means (financially it's just not possible) but GEEEEZ!!!

    Yeah. So read-day for it to be January 1st!!  

  3. # Blogger Cape Cod Kitty

    My sentiments, as well. Although, this year, I have made a few gifts and I look forward to buying for my two littlest grandchildren, I really just want to skip the whole thing, and give the handmade gifts, just because I love them all the time.

    As far as the pictures go, just keep it real....if they are crying...that's the way it is. This too shall pass!
    Wishing you ease....just a few more weeks.  

  4. # Blogger Rachel

    I may just not get it since we never did holiday cards as children, but why not take 3 separate action shots of your children (maybe running outside? swinging?) and put the three next to each other on a card? Seems like it would be lovely and much less hassle for you.  

  5. # Blogger Mom24

    Two words--gift cards. I know it may not seem perfect, but let's face it, most people do like them. Plus, there are lots of ways to individualize them--ice cream, coffee, gas, etc., and you can do your shopping all in one swoop and get some sort of money back on the deal. Truly, you need to make it easier on yourself this year. Maybe if you stop the perfect gift quest, eventually others will too, and maybe they'll even decide to stop the endless gift exchanges. Maybe.

    Tracey had great suggestions.

    I'm definitely NOT in the holidays spirit this year, in case you couldn't tell. ;-)

    I also completely agree about keeping the pictures real--I know I've said this before, but my favorite holiday card was three pictures similar to your three that said "it is what it is". I loved the honesty of it.

    Good luck.  

  6. # Blogger Jesser

    That is ... well terrible, in my opinion!!! Can't you get them all stuff from Heifer International or something??? I would go insane if I had to buy for all my aunts and uncles. There's just too much stuff already. I totally get why you hate that. Even when we had to buy actual gifts for my inlaws, it was stressful as hell because we.never.see.them. and consequently, know nothing about them. Actually, there are many more reasons, but sufficed to say, we did away with it and I love it. I hate obligation giving. Hope you can find a way to get through it and enjoy the good stuff!  

  7. # Blogger Sasha

    I am the last person who ought to be giving advice in this vein since I loathe, loathe LOATHE the holidays.

    However, in the spirit of helpfulness, I will say that doing the fun things with my kids has made it slightly (SLIGHTLY) more enjoyable. The gingerbread house, the tree, the decorations. But honestly, I think the holidays are such a crock. Forget that it is all about rampant consumerism and forgetting that a chunk of our population is not Christian and therefore not celebrating (don't even get me started on people who prattle on about the "war on Christmas" while also purchasing tacky logo-covered merchandise to set under their tree and pretend like they are really one with Jesus) AND forgetting that we all spend way more than we have b/c we feel obligated to... forgetting ALL of that, there is some fun to be had.

    What bothers me most is the obligation. Why is it somehow required to give evereyone from preschool teachers to babysitters to all service people in our live, one week of salary? That is a lot of money!

    Ok, I am stopping while I am ahead. This is coming off more as a rant. The point is supposed to be that there are bright spots in there somewhere.


    someone who is also eagerly awaiting January 2.  

  8. # Blogger Momma K

    I actually love the holidays. I suppose I should consider it a real blessing that I feel this way after reading your blog and comments today. I don't really feel like much is forced or that I have any major obligations. I like picking out gifts for the most part. I love holiday decorations, scents, and carols. Thankfully, my boys do too. We've been decorating and crafting a bit, planning events and menus, and singing our hearts out to the local radio station's "Holiday Gift of Music." We are Christian, so we also do a lot of talking and reading about the first Christmas and birth of Jesus. I pray that I never feel any different about "the most wonderful time of the year!"  

  9. # Blogger In Due Time

    check out catch or the day thread for good deals

    maybe try dum dum suckers for the twins attention during photo shoot? lol  

  10. # Blogger Momma K

    Just one more thing that comes to mind . . .I thing it's quite sad that many of the moms here who could be passing on to your kids the holiday spirit, the joy that Christmas truly is, are so bah humbug. I don't want to offend anyone (because I know we all have our own unique situations we are dealing with), but I hope that the feelings of many expressed here do not rub off on your little ones. I really was kinda surprised and sad to read Kristi's words and a lot of your comments today.  

  11. # Blogger Sasha

    I am not going to take over Kristi's comment page for a back and forth debate here, but I will just make it clear that my children are happy, well-adjusted, healthy and intelligent. No need to feel "sorry" for either me or them, but thank you so much for the concern. I will refrain from saying any further since I am annoyed and I doubt anything I would say would come to any good.

    Enjoy your happy holiday season, Momma K. I will enjoy all the ensuing months.  

  12. # Blogger Marie

    Do you ever think about drawing a line with the fam? Drawing names, or just giving to the youngest generation? I thought of you & your spreadsheet on Black Friday. I think if I had that many people to buy for, I'd be mega stressed, too. We've all agreed to scale back in our families in recent years & it helps a ton. It is easy to get caught up in the buying/wrapping frenzy and lose sight of what Christmas is really about.  

  13. # Blogger Sugar and Ice

    Is there no way to cut out exchanging gifts with the extended family members?? We buy gifts for the kids, our parents, our siblings (we have one brother each), out sisters in law (each brother has a wife), and our nephew. So, outside of our household, we have 9 gifts to buy. I am not above buying a gift card. I have done it many times, and they have always seemed appreciated.

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas!! If I ever find myself feeling negatively about the holiday season then I'll have to change whatever puts me in that kind of mood. I actually was thinking about posting about fun traditions on my own stay tuned!  

  14. # Blogger Melissa

    Without having read any of the other comments, I would suggest putting your foot down and either say, "I'm not buying gifts for anyone but MY family," or everybody agree to pick names from a hat so there is NO obligation to buy for everyone.

    And I totally got a kick out of those pictures. Those are the best kind!  

  15. # Blogger Christine

    I know you have about a gazillion people to think about and buy for this holiday season, and maybe it's time for a talk with them about no longer doing a gift exchange? or maybe doing a draw so that way you can focus on one really great gift instead of 20. It might relieve a lot of the pressure other family members are feeling too?

    I also hate the consumerism of Christmas, but since we're in the process of buying a new house the Tony and I are boycotting gifts this year. BUT honestly, I used to love Christmas. I think it's become such a point of stress in my small family too that it brings me down...oh well.

    Good luck. (And enjoy the Xanax) :)  

  16. # Blogger Debbie

    I love Christmas. Yes, I do feel stress over certain things, but it's generally a stress that's felt most of the year and is magnified at Christmas. And over the years I've knocked stuff off my to-do list when it seemed I was the only one who noticed if it was missing.

    And I know Thanksgiving is waaaay bigger for the USA than Canada, and ours is earlier. I usually start my shopping right after Hallowe'en, and I'm pretty much done by the beginning of December, so I can focus that month on baking, decorating, doing things with the kids.

    This year we feel our boys are old enough to learn about helping others who are less fortunate. I figure it's a good time to start since the campaigns are all around us, and we can continue it throughout the year in our own way.

    I agree with previous commenters that it sound like a name draw is in order for your extended family. We've done this with Hubs' family for many years, the over-16 group is part of the adult gift exchange, while other still get presents from their aunts & uncles and grandparents. I often make a gift for my in-laws incorporating our boys as a thank you for everything they help us with over the year (e.g. babysitting). This year I made an iPhoto calendar. Two years ago was a platter with stamped handprints. I'm not crafty by any means, so these were simple projects I could do, involve the kids, etc.

    Yes, Christmas has such a deep meaning that many of us have forgotten. But it should also be fun.

    Oh, and those pictures? Fade the colour a bit so they look like they were taken in the '70's, attach them to some cardstock with photo corners, add a funny comment, and you've got a great Christmas card that many of your friends with children will get a kick out of receiving!  

  17. # Blogger JM

    Those photos crack me up, sometimes capturing those moments of chaos is more interesting than getting the perfect shot. They will tell more stories when the kids look at them years down the line than the ones where they are sitting still. Good luck on getting a keeper :)  

  18. # Anonymous Anonymous

    If you don't stand up for yourself and say, "This is what I am going to do and what I want to do," then the tradition of gift giving and commercialism that you so hate will be passed down to your kids.

    Stand up for yourself and your family and your financial well-being and say, "We are not buying gifts for anyone besides our kids" or "We are not buying for anyone over age 18" or whatever it is that YOU want to do.

    Don't be held hostage by other people and let them dictate what you do. They will get over it; if they don't, then it's their problem.

    It's a shame that the message of Christmas is being lost here. It's not about buy, buy, buy; it's about give, give, give. Give to those less fortunate; give with joy; give with a happy heart.  

  19. # Blogger Sunny

    I missed this post somehow! But you already have awesome suggestions. I just try to simplify the buying as much as possible (e.g. my brother and I are donating to charity instead of buying each other gifts) and focus on the special things about the season -- like my son's eyes sparkling as he looks at Christmas decorations and exclaims, "YIGHTS!"  

  20. # Blogger Heather

    You got some great suggestions here. Let me just tell you, my attempt at all three in the Christmas card photo has Charlotte hitting one of her sisters on the head. I wish someone would have taken a picture of me. I can't remember the last time I was so frustrated. I gave up and did two separate photos.  

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