Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holidays 2011: 'Are they over yet?'

It’s that time of year. Just like clockwork, the holidays are nearly upon us. Sadly, it’s not unusual for people to lament, “I just have to GET THROUGH the holidays!”

Really? Get through? Is that the best we can hope for? You get through a boring meeting. You get through a colonoscopy. Aren’t the holidays supposed to be the one time of year when you are bursting with peace and joy and good will towards men? And women? And people you can’t stand?

The root of holiday stress is the gulf between our expectations and the unmet Visions of Perfection. We start off with ambitious plans that rarely work out as we intend them to. The problem is that we are already stretched to our limits with kids, school, parents, in-laws, family, house work, yard work, “work work” and the myriad of other activities that occupy our every waking hour. And yet, here come the holidays, like a relentless freight train of stress, crashing into our fragile schedules.

So - other than dive under the covers for two months until it all goes away--what can we do to make sure that people don’t find pieces of us in the next county come Christmas Day?

The key to minimizing our holiday stress is to set realistic goals to begin with. Below is a handy checklist so that you can begin to plan how you will work these things into your already-crowded schedule.

It is not an exhaustive list (although I get exhausted just thinking about it!) But, I hope that it will help you to realize that the time to think about the holidays is NOW. Tick tock, tick tock. The later we wait, the more the stress begins to accrue. And that’s no fun
for anybody.

I now present to you (drum roll please):

The Holiday To-Do (or To-Don’t) Lists
You’ll notice that each category starts with the choice that involves the highest investment of time and energy and also has the highest potential for stress. The last choice in each category is—well, let’s face it—the easy way out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But most of us will not get the full holiday experience if we opt out of the activities altogether. There is a balance somewhere and only we as individuals can find where that place is for us. So, grab that #2 pencil and start check marking!

  • Prepare a traditional turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, by yourself. (NOTE: if you choose this option, get yourself to the doctor PRONTO. It’s important that you get tested to determine if you are an actual human being and not a robot.)
  • Prepare the turkey and enlist others to bring the trimmings.
  • Get yourself invited to someone else’s house and take ONE “trimming.”
  • Go out to a restaurant. No mess, no fuss! If your family disowns you for taking this option, there will be plenty of families at the restaurant who will be happy to adopt you. Maybe it’s time to trade your old family in for a newer model anyway.


  • Buy gifts for everyone you know or have ever known. (Come on, you know somebody like this. They are also the type of person who has everything bought, paid-for, wrapped and put away
  • by August 1. We hate them.)
  • Buy gifts for your entire family, down to second cousins.
  • Gift cards all around!
  • Give everyone the joy of giving … to YOU!

  • Send them to everyone you’ve ever known or ever hope to know. Rationalize that you are just doing your part to keep the Post Office in business.
  • Send them only to people that live out of town (or out of state, or out of the country).
  • Send them only to the people who sent you cards last year. (Now THERE’S the holiday spirit!)
  • Opt out of sending cards altogether. Offer a friendly wave to the people you pass in your car and just figure you’ve done your part for demonstrating the holiday spirit.

  • Decorate the inside and the outside of your house. (See above about having a doctor verify if you are, in fact, human.)
  • Decorate the inside of your house.
  • Christmas tree only.
  • Skip decorating and just drive around town admiring everyone else’s hard work. Wave as you go by to demonstrate your holiday spirit.

  • Throw a big holiday bash and insist that people don’t bring anything but their appetites.
  • Go to every party you are invited to and crash a few others.
  • Only go to the parties with the best food.
  • Only go to the parties where your lack of attendance could cost you your job or your marriage.

  • Plan on baking several different types of complicated, delectable goodies that would make Martha Stewart cringe with envy. (If this is the third or fourth Option #1 that you’ve chosen, don’t bother going to the doctor. I can already tell you that you are NOT of this world.)
  • Participate in a cookie exchange.
  • Buy all goodies, ready-made from the grocery store. (Did you hear that thud? It was the sound of your Great Aunt Millie collapsing on the floor from shock. That spinning sound is your great, great grandmother rolling over in her grave. Hey, don’t judge me, Grams. Back in the day, you didn’t have manicures, pedicures and a loaded Primetime TV schedule to keep up with.)
  • Skip the baked goods and just put out a full-length mirror. Invite your loved ones to take a look at themselves and then ask them, “Do you really think you need cookies?” (See above suggestion about what to do when your family disowns you.)

Remember that your choices for each holiday activity are essentially this: do it yourself, delegate it or let it go. The world will keep on spinning if you skip something. And your great, great grandma will keep on spinning as well.
And that’s okay.

Regardless of your level of involvement in holiday activities, you can still decide to make it a joyous time of year. At least plan to insure that by New Year’s Eve, you’re not so ragged-out that you fall face-first into your giant bowl of homemade egg nog. (Not that that’s happened to me. Ahem.)

Lastly, as you try to squeeze extra activities into an already over-crowded schedule remember that something’s gotta give. Don’t let it be your sanity or your sense of humor. Relax. Enjoy. Pass the store-bought cookies.

By Kay Frances

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