The older I get the faster the holidays seem to fly right past my window in a flurry of fluffy white snowflakes. No sooner have I put away my pumpkins and scary ghost costumes than I’m inundated with turkeys and trees.
We decorate for all the seasons in our house. Well, all seasons except summer – there’s no 4th of July décor other than our flag flying proudly on the front porch from Memorial Day through Labor day. We’re too busy in the summer doing sports or lessons or traveling to visit family. We’re too busy sitting around a fire in the backyard or dipping our toes in the lake during our after dinner stroll. We’re obviously much too busy licking ice cream cones on the front steps, waving at the people out for their leisurely strolls through the neighborhood, to be bothered with decorating.
But fall and winter call for another way of life altogether. The days get incredibly short and the candles are lit soon after the bus burps up my humans in a burst of papers and books and stories of the day. The oven roasts more things and the grill gets lonely. The fluffy socks and the footie jammies become evening uniforms as soon as the sun starts sinking in the sky. Fall and winter are for cozying up in the house, around the table with bowls of soup and hot cocoa and cookies. Or, if you live in my house, melt-downs in the kitchen, fights over who has to take a shower, and “just one more chapter” every night at bedtime. Same-same.
But this season of Christmas that falls right smack in the middle of glorious colors of fall and the harsh winds of winter can be teeming with events. Holiday parties, cookie baking, church programs and school programs, Bentlyville and looking at lights. Some weeks it can be something going on every single night. It can be an introvert’s worst nightmare and an extrovert’s dream come true.
There’s always some sort of essay on how to slow down during the holidays. Spend more quality time and less Buddy the Elf time; take it down a notch, if you will. But I’m here to tell you, as a card carrying member of the Introverts Untie (But Separately In Our Own Homes) Club, this is the time of year to dive in. Do the things. Play the songs. Be part of the parades and concerts and programs. These are the things that will get us through February. And probably March. (And okay, up here in the North Woods, April and May, too). If you want to stay in and have a Charlie Brown Christmas, go for it! Wear your Santa socks proudly and toast your tree with some spiked eggnog.
But if you want to step out and make your Christmas chalk full of all.the.things, here’s a quick list of some great things to add to your Holiday Bucket List:
- Put up your Christmas tree and outdoor Christmas lights early. That shiny, sparkly tree makes walking downstairs in the dark, small hours of the morning before the coffee has hit the back of your throat much more tolerable. I suggest getting a timer for your Christmas lights for two reasons: first, you don’t have to remember to turn them off (nobody forgets to turn them on, obviously) and second, it will keep your husband from having a heart attack because the Christmas lights stayed on the entire night. Additionally, it’s possible to share the yule with everyone and their uncle, so go ahead and sign up for every Christmas Light Display Contest you can. That way people will be driving past your house constantly and you will be bringing them joy with your twinkling lights, your waving Santa and your artfully displayed sled arrangement on the front porch. Channel your inner Clark W. Griswold.
- Speaking of Christmas Vacation, watch all of the Christmas movies all of the time. Twenty minutes before school? Pop on some Frosty. Friday night movie night in your house? Rudolph, The Grinch, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 1, 2 and 3. Grown up movie night? Elf, Bad Santa, Christmas with the Kranks. And obviously, if you search hard enough, you can find a Christmas Vacation Drinking Game for grown-ups after the small humans are in bed. Christmas movies aren’t just for the kids, so put those little elves to bed and invite your besties over for an evening of Christmas movie merriment. Remember to watch your movies responsibly and uber home.
- 25 Days of Christmas Books. If you have kids like mine, you absolutely cannot have wrapped gifts under the tree. It is torture and I do not want to hear 27,000 times a day how much longer until we open presents. Queue 25 Days of Christmas Books. We only bring out our Christmas books at Christmas and the rest of the year they are in a tote in the basement. My small humans forget in the intervening 11 months what books we have downstairs. So I choose 25 of the 87,000 Christmas books we own because I love books. Wrap them up and stick a big number on each one of them. Every day they get to open one book and it’s like they’ve never seen Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or The Gingerbread Pirates (because they’re little and they have goldfish brain, this will not last forever, take advantage of this inexpensive “gift” while you can).
- Drive around to see all of the Christmas lights. All of them. Jammies, sippy-cups of chocolate milk (because hot chocolate in a moving vehicle with small humans is a disaster. Ask me how I know that). Play the Christmas light game while you’re driving, first one to call a house of lights gets a point. Five points for a house that has only blue lights. Ten points for a giant Santa, snowman or nativity scene in the front yard. It’s an awesome game for driving back from Christmas shopping, too. It keeps your small humans from asking the dreaded “how much longer?” Plus, you get to scope out the competition (see #1).
- Decorate Christmas cookies. Every cookie from your childhood. Every cookie from your husband’s childhood. New cookies you found on Pinterest when you were supposed to be folding the laundry. Be part of a cookie exchange at your church or your mom’s group or organize one yourself. Invite all of your friends and their kids, spread out all of the icing and sprinkles and sugar cookies and gingerbread men you can find and let the kids go nuts. The cookies will probably be questionable. There will be goops of icing and some if it might be on the cookies. You will find sprinkles when you do your spring cleaning. But it’s fun. And when you’re finished you can take some of the lovingly decorated cookies to a nursing home. Old folks love to see little kids, little kids love to eat cookies and sing Christmas songs off key. Everyone wins here.
- Elf the ever-loving life out of your shelf. Or tree. Or wherever your Elf happens to land. Our Elf has a calendar so that I know where to put him each night. This is especially handy if, say, you want your elf to be hanging from the ceiling surrounded by cut out paper snowflakes on Tuesday night. Tuesday morning you can look at your calendar and make 27 paper snowflakes during nap time and find your husband’s fishing string. Kids go to bed and everything gets hung. Ta-Da! No waking up in a cold panic at 5:45 am because you forgot to move the elf. You have a calendar. You are prepared.
So, six is a wonky number for a list, I know, but listen to me when I tell you this: you can do Christmas as big or as little as you want to. You don’t need to justify your jam-packed December calendar to anyone. You don’t need to justify your silent calendar, either. The holidays, after all, are truly about doing what makes you happy. It’s about being with your family – even if that means FaceTiming them because they live far, far away. It’s about doing it up with glitter and bows. And it’s about tucking in close to a Christmas Eve service. This is such a short period of time – and we cram a lot into it, yes – but what we take away at the end of it? Memories to last the entire year. So go ahead and cram away. I’ll be looking for your light display that rivals the Griswold’s and sending you a virtual high-five.