Finessing Christmas

When I was young, our Christmases were extravaganzas. My parents weren’t Clark Griswold/Christmas store-style decorators, but we had lights on the house and a big, full tree that was overdecorated and surrounded by piles of presents. On Christmas Eve, we’d don pajamas and curl up on either side of my father so that he could put his arms around us both as he read The Night Before Christmas.

On Christmas morning, we’d get up as early as my brother and I could persuade my parents to wake; make tea and coffee; go through stockings; have breakfast; go to Mass (when we were very young–later we switched to Christmas Eve Mass); come home; and open presents.

When we lived within driving distance of grandparents, we would spend the afternoon with my mother’s parents and the next day or two with my father’s. When we didn’t, my mother’s parents often traveled to spend the holidays with us (this is its own story).

We would spend the whole day at home with each other and our new gifts, playing board games and reading books–and watching movies, once VHS technology had been invented and acquired. And we’d cook our traditional Christmas dinner.

Times have changed, as they do. Most years we trade off holidays, so that we’re spending one with my side of the family and the other with Mr. Sandwich’s. Our own trees are smaller, often in height and always in diameter. I keep forgetting to locate the copy of The Night Before Christmas, and I never remember to buy stocking stuffers. Mr. Sandwich goes on an early run, as is his family’s tradition, and we eat some breakfast. We haven’t been to Mass in years.

The presents don’t all get opened on the same day. Baguette enjoys opening a few, but then loses interest, so we open one or two of hers a day until we’re done. Or we don’t. So far? Not done.

But there are 12 days of Christmas, right? So I figure there’s no rush.

Keeping the Holiday Stress in Check

Impossible, you say? A lot of people would agree with you; the Washington Post reports that holiday stress makes this the most challenging time of year for many women.

I have wonderful memories of childhood Christmases. There were always lots of gifts.

There were decorations–lights on the house, and a tall, full tree festooned with ornaments, and tinsel. There were cookies–my mom’s shortbread cookies remain some of my favorite Christmas cookies, even though I haven’t had them in years. There was a big meal–roast prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, creamed spinach, and baked potatoes, with gingerbread for dessert.

But none of that was what made those Christmases special. Fun, sure, but not special.

No, what made them special was the love. The time we spent together, taking turns exploring those gifts. Making dinner. Watching movies. Playing new board games.

That’s what I want to give Baguette. And I want to make those elements part of her childhood, too. But that doesn’t mean I have to make it stressful. My secret? Setting boundaries.

Christmas tree, Baguette, and Ernie

Tree: I want to have a tree. But it doesn’t need to be the 8-foot-tall Balsam I grew up with. We’re just as happy with a 4-1/2 foot Noble fir (Mr. Sandwich and I like trees that have layers of branches, the better to hang ornaments). In fact, we only had a tall tree once–and that was because we were so late in buying our tree last year that the tree lot was out of the small size we’d hoped for.

Decorations: Mr. Sandwich strings lights on the house each year. I love them. But we don’t need to go all Clark Griswold in the process. (I have plans to make a door wreath of buttons. I’ve had this plan for years. Someday, it’ll happen.)

Gifts: We don’t need to give a lot of them to each person. We just need to open them together.

Food: Well, I do like that traditional meal. But, really, it’s not that hard to make, and it’s pretty easy to plan it so that everything comes out hot at the same time.

Cookies: I don’t make Christmas cookies. I want to, but what I really want to do is make them with Baguette, and she’s not quite ready to do that. Maybe next year. I feel like next year’s going to be a big one.

So our Christmas may be smaller-scale than many, but we’re spending it together, with our focus on each other. And that really is all I want for Christmas.

Grown-Up Day

Mr. Sandwich and I both work for a state organization, which means that we get today off in honor of Cesar Chavez Day. Baguette’s day care, on the other hand, is open.

Most of the time, if work is closed, so is day care. So that means that today is the only day when it’s just the two of us.

Grown-Up Day!

I woke up slightly later than usual, but still got Baguette to day care on time. And then I came back and slept until 9:30. Because I could.

Mr. Sandwich did some much-needed car repair, changing the brakes on one of our cars. I filed our taxes, although as usual I had trouble finding one document. (Irony? It was right in front of me the whole time, behind some related paperwork in a folder. It was like it was The Purloined Tax Document.)

I’m straightening up the kitchen in preparation for Easter dinner with Mr. Sandwich’s parents–there’s cooking to be done–and the hard-cooked eggs are ready for coloring (that, too, will be us, since Baguette’s not quite ready for that). We’re folding a lot of laundry.

And we get to watch TV that we can’t watch with Baguette.

I’m already looking forward to picking her up.

Deck the Meme with Boughs of Holly (updated)

This holiday meme was stolen from Katherine of Somewhere in the Middle. Enjoy, and pass it on.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate, definitely!
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Neither–Santa leaves unwrapped gifts in our stockings.
3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? The more colors, the better.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, but I used to want to when I was younger
5. Tacky holiday sweaters: yea or nay? Nay! (Apparently I left out #5–thanks to Blogging With Mittens* for this one!)
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Yorkshire pudding, part of my family’s traditional holiday feast.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? Making egg-carton ornaments with my dad and construction-paper garlands with my mom.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? No idea.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No, we wait until Christmas morning.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Lights and eclectic ornaments. I grew up with tinsel, but we don’t use it because of the dog.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it! Largely because we live in Los Angeles–if we see snow, we’re on vacation.
12. Can you ice skate? Badly, and not for long.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Slippers. It’s not a lame gift if your feet are always cold.
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Spending time with family.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? My mother’s shortbread cookies.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Dinner.
17. What tops your tree? A clear star I bought the first year I had a tree of my own.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving!
19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum? Yum, until the mint upsets my stomach. Then yuck, clearly.
20. Favorite Christmas show? How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
21. Saddest Christmas Song? I’ll Be Home For Christmas. (Because you can tell, no, they won’t.)
22. What is your favorite Christmas song? Joy to the World.

And you?

Update: You know what? I’m going to tag a few people.

Blogging With Mittens*

Confessions of a Semi-Domesticated Mama

Don’t Forget to Feed the Baby

Expatria, Baby

Katie Is a Teacher

Life Ever Since

Christmas Cheer

I’m not training, but I’m definitely eating. Frosted cookies, fudge, carrot cake, gingersnaps, triple sec pound cake–and that’s just the desserts.

I’m also enjoying the influx of holiday cards. I really like seeing all of the photo cards. But here’s a note to many of my friends: your children are adorable, and it’s fun to see them grow up. But you know what? I’d like to know what you look like, too. Include yourselves in the family photos. And if you’re sending a regular card, please don’t pick one with glitter. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and I’d rather it didn’t.

Regardless, I love having a tree decorated, and I really enjoyed having my family spend several days here. It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m having a great time celebrating the season.

And now, let Linus explain the meaning of Christmas.