Back in 2004 I wrote this for the CKUW radio show ‘2000 & Counting’.
Christmas stress and chores haven’t changed. Darn!!
Whenever I wonder if God is a man or a woman - which I admit isn't often - all I have to do is remember the ho-ho-ho good time women have during the holidays.
Yep.. God is a man.
He sits there and just expects holidays to happen. They happened last year, right? No problem. He just sat and wallah! Christmas.
Okay, ladies, we know it takes more than sitting. Remember that cheery little commercial in which we heard Nat King Cole singing about Mrs. Santa Claus? We saw a woman frantically throwing toys into a cart with one hand, keeping a toddler from jumping out of the cart with another hand and clutching a preschooler with another hand. Of course she had three hands. She was a Mom.
Admit it. We don't have holidays because we like them. They're part of our culture, our tradition, our civilization. Yeah. So's cleaning the toilet. There are books with sentimental nonsense, like:
Evenings when blustery winds howled were cozy times, perfect for sorting recipes. The children were helping Mama at the oak table chopping fruit and raisins. Papa was happily crushing nuts and fresh spices in the grinder.
Yeah. Those people had cabin fever. Sorting recipes? Didn't they have any favourites? Children chopping raisins? Sure. Yank a gameboy out of a kid's hands, give him a big sharp knife and you'll both end up on the 6 o'clock news. Papa crushing his nuts in a what? I don't think so.
Remember how we thought technology would make life easier? How we'd have four day work weeks and loads of leisure? Uh huh. Technology means that even if you're in a public washroom, you - and a dozen other women who had to answer nature's call - can't escape your cellphone playing Up a Lazy River. Work is feast or famine - either you've nailed three part time jobs into a raft which you hope will carry you to your golden years when your ship will come in (if the pension plan doesn't go belly up) or you've been downsized. Again.
And now the holidays are back.
Okay, grab a pen and paper, sit down and think this through. Why are you doing this? Some say Jesus is the reason for the season. Okay, that's a start. If He's the only reason you're doing The Season it should be a lot less hectic. Remember God became human. Humans can't become God. So get rid of the crap that’s crept into the creche.
What's important to you and your family? Not to the neighbours, not to Granny and definitely not to the stores. If you want to create pleasant memories set your own priorities. Don't let urgent things like making fancy decorations keep you from important things like spending time together. If anyone tries to talk you into doing something a little extra, just say no.
Back to those memoirs. Maybe chopping and crushing was their idea of a crackerjack good time. But if your kids are going to make a beeline for the Oreoes, why stay up till midnight making sugar cookies in strange shapes that can't be dunked into a glass of milk? I know. It's tradition. So, delegate. Bang open some tubes of cookie dough and let the kids get creative while you take pictures. They'll actually eat those cookies.
Invited someone who thinks store bought food is just not fit for the holidays? Stock up now, destroy the wrappings, toss your cookies into bread bags and freeze them. Remember how in the 60s we distressed furniture? When it's 'show time' pop the cookies into the oven for nice burnt edges. Muck up the cake's icing so it'll look like you really tried. The snob will respect your efforts and eat, none the wiser. Just make things look like they weren't made by a professional.
Speaking of professional, avoid The Stewart. If you must watch Martha, remember: It's TV. She's paid to be a pain. You've seen blooper shows. Trust me. Martha bloopers. She bakes 20 cakes and shows the best one. Look at the credits. She has an army doing the work. She isn't trying to make all this crap when she's bone tired after putting in a 12 hour day and everyone's asleep. When you watch one of those autopsy shows like CSI do you get an urge to carve up a cadaver, too?
Do you have a friend who's another Martha? Whoopee for her. Like Mama done told you, if your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it, too? There has to be something your friend hates to do. Now's a good time to swap your expertise for hers. Yes, you are good at something. She bakes, you wrap. See?
Ever feel that if you don't do everything the family's been doing since the Dark Ages, the holidays will be ruined forever, it will be all your fault and the family will never recover? According to Doctor Bush, a psychologist, Guilt feelings are a messy mixture of insecurity, self-doubt, self-condemnation, self-judgment, anxiety and fear. It's a whole mishmash of stuff.
Dump the guilt. Make a list of all the things you think you have to do, including making that mystery relish that's been in the family since the Black Death. After dinner, before everyone runs off, read the list. If something gets big smiles, it's a keeper. If you say 'Relish' and people make barfing sounds, scratch it. If your family's too polite or you've invited out of town relatives just think about the past year. If you were still trying to unload that relish with the Easter ham, lose the recipe.
Office Parties were dandy back when men held the same job for decades, 'The Wives' were drooling to dress up and 'Meet those exciting people you work with' and the kids could be packed off to Granny's. Now both spouses have parties - guess what, they're always on the same night - 'The Wives' and 'The Husbands' don't want to meet The Idiots you're always complaining about, Granny's on a cruise and the Goth babysitter looks like Dracula. You see your co-workers enough. They'll save you a copy of the secretary's xeroxed butt.
Cards used to be nice and simple. They had pretty pictures and a cheery message. All you had to do was sign and send. Then some fool got creative and started printing up long bragging letters. Do your friends a favour. Don't write The Letter.
Being tempted by seeing everybody in the flyers looking wildly happy? Want your family to go nuts, too? Guess what. The folks in the flyers are models who were paid big bucks to grin like idiots and jump around like that. Stores want you to buy stuff. That's their only goal. Helping you have a nice holiday is not their problem. If they had their way you'd replace everything every year.
Remember how the best presents were items that showed someone knew what you really liked? Maybe somebody hunted down a book by your favourite author. Those gimmicky things that looked impressive seem downright strange on December 26th. Do your family a favour and toss those flyers.
Do get yourself some little treats. I have a friend who picks up a few bags of pfeffernusse cookies every November. Whenever she feels like all she's doing is giving, giving, giving, she pops a pfeffernusse and gives herself an old time Christmas. It doesn't take much.
God bless us, everyone.