Okay Santa. Christmas.
How we do this whole ordeal, err, I meant deal.
I am the Child of Divorced Parents, which means Christmas represents, historically, the War of the Roses, red versus white. I sort of forgot the entire Christ Child bit for many, many years. I dubbed the holidays Code Name York, and wondered when I'd be old enough for a valium prescription.
So my entire life I struggled to rebel against the case of massive stress-induced heartburn that most people called the Hap-Happiest Season of All. I'll show you much mistletoe-ing.
I'll raise my hand and confess that, in my youth, I liked to sock it to the materialistic capitalists by handing out donation cards in lieu of gifts. I still do this as a slightly less angsty adult, but it comes from a good place, I swear.
I'll also confess to being a totally materialistic capitalist who used the holiday spirit to milk as much booty as I could from family, who never, EVER seemed to feel that guilt everyone promised me I'd earn as the child of divorced parents.
And what's worse...some years I didn't even put up a tree. In fact, until this year I never even owned a wreath, or a garland.
I know. Go ahead, throw your hand to your forehead and groan.
Now...this year, I got infected by a little of the Deck the Halls spirit.
I know. Go ahead, throw your hand to your forehead and groan. Nothing quite so obnoxious and decoratively liberal as a reformed Scrooge.
But...I have kids. And they don't know from nasty embattled holidays.
They look forward to Christmas. They are very excited.
And this explains the:
* Garland replete with white poinsettias and red berries twined up the bannister
* Frosty the Snowman pillows on the sofa
* Collection of Nutcrackers littering the buffet
* Elaborate Father Christmas figurine and Angel figurine
* Madcap wreath---handmade, chock full (and I do not use that term loosely) of decorations the kids chose, including a bird---on the front door
* One 3 foot tall and one 4 foot tall spiral lighted Christmas tree for the front yard
* Icicle lights for the dormers and roof line (on the To-Do list)
* Christmas trees for each kid's room and playroom
* Charlie Brown's Christmas DVD (bought at full price of $16.99...what can I say, I'm a sucker for Peanuts and Vince Guaraldi)
* Pile of presents in the coat closet (what else is that thing good for? Coats? Bwahahahaha!)
* Hand-stamped and original Christmas cards
I'll stop there lest my face blush a brighter shade of crimson.
I---a self-avowed anti-Christmas Spiriter, who barely unbent enough to be very religious about this time of year---have buckled and joined in the Out-Decorate Your Neighbors game.
I lose, I do, honestly. I'm years behind.
But this year, my kids GET IT, and are beside themselves humming Jingle Bells all day. They are so cute you'd have to be a rock to not be affected.
Listen, what would you do when, one day, your five-year old walks up to you and asks, "When do we go see Santa and get our photos taken?"
Here's what you do if you're me:
You jump at the chance because OMG your kid just AGREED, no SUGGESTED a photo which means it's her idea and thus there is a snowball's chance in Hell she will LOOK at the CAMERA and maybe even SMILE instead of do her usual Hannibal Lecter leer.
See, in past years, if you were me, you had to fend off all the Other People around you who say all sorts of stuff to your kid like, "Santa comes down your chimney and leaves you presents at night while you sleep," leading your kid to develop a MAJOR phobia of this total stranger who breaks in to her house at night while she sleeps. In fact the whole concept makes her afraid to go to sleep the entire month of December because, as she puts it, "Someone who we do not know who will just come into our house might do it anytime, not just on December 24th!" Then she set up her stuffed dogs---of which there are probably 100---in a circle on her bed and by her door, plus a couple by the stairs to guard her, lest this Santa Claus character get any ideas about coming upstairs to her room.
You also have to deal with keeping all your drapes and blinds closed---or fighting not to---because some mom thinks it is a good idea to tell a story to a misbehaving child about how this Santa Claus, the same one who breaks into your house, also spies on you through your windows to see if you are naughty or nice.
Can you say my daughter wanted a Restraining Order against the criminal known as Santa?
Can you blame her?
And, of course, you can understand why I never mentioned St. Nicholas to her, and the whole tradition of Sinterklaas and Zwerte Piet.
I'd have to drain her college fund for therapy on that one.
So this year, this year to see her excited (that is, not terrified) about this holiday, well, you can forgive me going all out. Can't you?
So what else do we do?
We build Gingerbread houses, and make Gingerbread cookies.
We make special poinsettia flower arrangements and pull out the Christmas plate set.
We'll hang stockings on the mantle, yes, even ones for the dog and cats.
On Christmas Eve, we get a tree and decorate it. December 25 is the first day of Christmas. The kids get drowned under a sea of gifts from family, and that's why we do a "one gift per each day of Christmas" straight up to Epiphany. We learned this the hard way.
This year, we hosted within my church and neighborhood groups a toy exchange. Gently used or unwanted new toys were traded and everyone walked away with some nice, FREE gifts. We're donating the remainder. Our groaning toy shelves in the playroom thanked us.
We talk about attitude of gratitude, adopt a family, take food to people, and remember what it's all really about---which isn't the Toys 'R Us catalog.
Mostly we grab the opportunity to love and be loved with both hands.
And any photo chances too.
So let the sleigh bells ring this year, I'm listening. I might even be humming along.
By Julie Pippert
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This post motivated by the very excellent
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