It’s Okay to be a Grinch about Some Traditions

I don’t send Christmas cards. I never have. I love taking pictures of my kids and organizing them into albums. I enjoy writing and could probably craft a solid family update letter. But the prospect of rounding up addresses for my nearest and dearest with whom I have communicated exclusively electronically for the past decade or so makes me want to weep. The idea of sending Christmas cards feels more like a chore than a pleasure – so I don’t do it.

I’m convinced that perhaps the biggest secret to finding joy during the holidays is to embrace your inner Grinch from time to time. I wrote last week about how much I adore holiday traditions, but I freely acknowledge that there can be tremendous stress embedded in the rituals of the season. I blame social media for a lot of that stress. My cousin recently posted a picture of the cookie tray she assembled for her co-workers. There must have been a dozen different beautiful confections artfully arranged on an adorable platter. I nearly broke out in hives on the spot imagining what it would take for me to create a similar holiday spread.

In today’s world of perfect Instagram photos and witty Facebook updates, it’s easy to get totally overwhelmed by the perception that everyone else is “doing Christmas” better than you are. You can drown in a sea smiling Santa visits, endearing church pageants, and ugly sweaters. Oh, no. I don’t own an ugly Christmas sweater. Am I flunking the holidays??

It is not actually possible to Do All the Christmas each year and trying to will drive you bonkers. The best we can hope for is to pick the traditions that mean the most to us personally and let the others go.

One tradition that I prioritize even though it’s a lot of work is my Wandering Wisemen. I have a Facebook page dedicated to chronicling the Advent journey of the three magi (in this case represented by plastic Playmobil figurines) and their faithful camel Hezekiah as they search my home for the infant king. I photograph the four wee travelers and post the pictures with humorous captions each day. It’s like Elf on the Shelf, but *ahem* way cooler. I freak out briefly at the start of each season about whether I’ll be able to dream up 30+ creative tableaus, but the fun is worth the anxiety.

On the other hand, I avoid Santa like the plague. Okay, maybe not like the plague, but the chubby dude in red has never played an important role in our traditions. Thus I can cheerfully skip the “wrestle your children into fancy holiday apparel and then wait in line for hours to get a picture of your kid screaming on the lap of a stranger who is trying to look happy during this awkward moment that he’s had to sit through three hundred times already today” experience. Thank goodness.

I really do love Christmas so there is a huge temptation for me to get utterly carried away by it all. I want to bake all the cookies and make all the memories and take all the pictures to treasure forever and ever and ever. But I grudgingly acknowledge that trying to pack too much into the holiday season leads to disappointment, frustration, and tears (usually mine). Sometimes this means accepting trade-offs. This year, I’m reviving a dormant tradition of a cookie-decorating party – paired with ice skating downtown! – but traded it for the chance to see the holiday decorations at the Cincinnati Zoo. There just aren’t enough days in the season to do it all.

Thus I dutifully “liked” the snapshot of my cousin’s ambitious cookie platter but ultimately felt content with my modest arsenal of frosted sugar cookies, triple ginger chews, and homemade fudge. It’s enough.

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