Simplifying Christmas


It’s just 20 days to Christmas and I think we actually out-Christmassed ourselves already, if that’s even possible. It started back in early August, when I was already thinking about our Halloween costumes. (We did our first family costume inspired by the film Moana.) We wore them to a local Halloween parade a whole WEEKEND before the actual day. We even Boo’ed some family and neighbors. Around this time, the Christmas tunes were already playing on Brian’s iPod and I was actively pinning holiday window box decor, but we do that year-round, respectively. Let’s be honest.

Then, things snowballed when we prepared an abbreviated version of Thanksgiving with just our favorite dishes — including a 23 lb frozen turkey — a whole week before turkey day. In my defense, it was $0.32/lb — how can you pass that up?? You can’t I tell you. I also did the bulk of my Christmas shopping for the girls in early November.

Next, we visited The Christmas Place  which is the largest Christmas store in New England the weekend before Thanksgiving. (It was incredible. You HAVE to go.) Finally, we rounded out our weekend at an adorable local Christmas tree farm where we ate mini-apple cider donut holes while we hunted for the perfect fraser fir. We had our tree selected and standing in our living room with lights well before December 1st.


Reflecting on all the fun things we did, I’m a bit sad they’re behind us. But the thing is, that is exactly the reason we tackled our unofficial fall and winter Christmas bucket lists so aggressively early this year. There is just so much fun holiday stuff to do, especially with kids.

I can acutely recall the FOMA (fear of missing out) I felt last year, which was the first fall I’d consider Emilia was probably really ready for trick or treating. I didn’t realize there were so many costume-wearing potential options and had a major #momfail by not having her Madeline costume ready in time for them. (We all know what a procrastionator I am — the last threads for “Madeline” were sewn as we headed out the door last year.) I vowed to start thinking “Christmas” on November 1st then and there.

Still, as much as we want to experience all the season offers, spending a very rare and unusually quiet Thanksgiving at home helped me remember that it’s the impromptu gatherings with family and friends that I most crave around the holidays. My time is so quickly eaten up trying to tick all my To Dos, from cookie baking to designing “the perfect” holiday card.  It’s often easy to dismiss simple things, like bundling the kids up in the car to look at Christmas lights or getting together at a friends’ for dinner when out-of-state friends happen to be in town the week of Thanksgiving.

In fact, two of my favorite memories from the fall weren’t even holiday-specific. In early October, E and I had a one-on-one “date” into Boston to visit my sister. She’d planned out a morning of arts and crafts and we all just hung out in her apartment. Actually, my sister sent me to relax in her living room with a stack of magazines and instructions to raid her cabinets if I wanted while she and E got messy with paint and glitter in another room. It was such a fun morning for everyone and E still talks about it.

The other was a play date with my college girlfriend Shawna and her kids. She’s on maternity leave at the moment so I realized I should take advantage and get together — with mimosas. It was such a fun morning with all our kids that I’ve looked forward to planning the next one ever since.

I’d felt like all this should be building to some grand wrap-up but the truth is, this new perspective is such a shift from how I have always viewed the holidays that I feel a bit out of my comfort zone in loosening up my expectations. Not that spending time with friends and family wasn’t the main event, but rather, prioritizing it over all the OTHER holiday stuff that occupies my thoughts — like how I’ll decorate the house, what my wrapping inspiration will be, and how I’ll decorate my sugar cookies. It’s daunting, but also thrilling at the same time.


I still value a beautifully decorated tree and would love to get my window boxes actually finished, but it’s OK if they’re not Martha Stewart perfect if it means I can snuggle on the couch with my daughter so I can answer ALL her questions about A Muppet Christmas Carol. Really, it’s more about being present, appreciating the moment and not holding the holidays (and myself) to an impossible standard.

My mantra for the season will be Emily Ley’s: I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection. I wish the same for all of you too.


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