This time of year brings out the absolute best in folks. Unfortunately, the stress and crazed spending also tend to bring out a bit of the worst from time to time as well. With our goal being to enjoy the season and cherish the true spirit of the holidays, I thought I’d bring you the top twelve myths of Christmas and then fully debunk them so we can get past the hangups and get on with the joy!
1. Just because it says “heirloom” on the box, doesn’t mean it will be.
Most of us are looking to make more memories each year that will be cherished for a lifetime. Of course, marketing companies realize this and use words like “heirloom” to tug at our heartstrings, often to the extent that we are able to overlook higher priced tags. Last week I looked at a line of ornaments, trying to find just the right one for our tree this year to commemorate 2009. I almost bought a few different ones but in the end left the store having not spent the twenty plus dollars that any one of the ornaments would have cost me.
Yesterday, we were in Cracker Barrel and I found this birdhouse ornament. Birds are the symbol of Bountiful and this particular birdhouse caught my eye. What better tradition to start the first year at Bountiful than to have a different birdhouse ornament each year? Now, I just wanted to make it more special and came up with the perfect idea. I gave the kids a gold metallic pen and had them sign their names on the back of it. I then put the date and “Bountiful” on the front. Voila, an ornament I will always cherish that cost me less than five dollars.
2. It has to be a store bought gift.
With all of the commercials, billboards, and signs in merchants windows its easier than ever to get caught up in the thinking that everyone on your list must receive a store bought gift but this movement actually works in the favor of those of us who prefer to give gifts of our heart and hands rather than our wallets because they prove to be “better than the norm” and a refreshing change for the person who has it all (and doesn’t want more to clutter things!). Rather than exchanging gifts, bake a loaf of sweet bread or a cake, even casseroles are welcome this time of year where sweets abound. Invite a family over to dinner and exchange handmade ornaments rather than buying gifts. Chances are your gesture will not only be appreciated, but will reduce a great deal of stress on both your family and theirs.
3. I have to be the perfect mother/wife/parent, I must do it all!
This is the myth that causes us the most stress, in my opinion. Ever see those women who seem to have it all together? Their house is immaculate, their children dressed to perfection, gifts are wrapped with designer bows and a perfectly set table awaits her guests. We all inevitably wonder how she does it all and berate ourselves for not being every bit as organized and on the ball as she is. Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret as to how she does it all: She doesn’t.
No one does it all, and no one can. We’re only human and no one person can do what TV moms do this time of year. If anyone leads you to believe they can do and have it all they are either: 1. lying 2. hiring folks to help behind the scenes
My friend Heather put it perfectly. she said every time her house is immaculate, that means she hasn’t spent much time with her kids that day. It’s all a give and take and something is always giving so the other area can take. Based on this observation, I don’t really feel all that bad about the days my house goes completely neglected because that means I’m focusing more on the important things in my life: my children.
This year is a perfect example for me. I’m working on a book, keeping up with Southern Plate, trying to make sure we have clean laundry and food to eat and to top it off this is the busiest season for myself, the kids, and my blog. Normally, I’m a whirlwind of baking from scratch around Christmas but this year I just don’t have the time I usually do.
Rather than be heartsick that I can’t bake a dozen varieties of cookies from scratch with my kids this year, I just picked up a few rolls of refrigerated cookie dough at the grocery store. I plan on making a different type of cookie with them each night this week and all I have to do to prep for it is pull out the dough and mix up some decorations. My kids and I will have the same experience of being in the kitchen together, making treats and gifts for others, but I won’t have the added stress of trying to squeeze in baking and clean up time that I simply don’t have to offer. Remember, it’s about the time together, not which recipe you use to get that time.
4. I can’t have a party unless my house is dressed to the nines.
Keep it together, keep it in focus. Just as we have the kids turn away from the tv to avoid commercial bombardment of useless toys, we need to also look at magazines and decorating shows with realistic intentions as well. Sure, that designer tree and heavily decked mantle might be gorgeous on the big screen, but in real life, it can’t hold a candle to your custom created garland of paper dolls decorated with crayons by your budding artist. Which do you think your kids will cherish more: Your house looking like the cover of Martha Stewart Living or the fact that you were so proud of their Rudolph coloring page that you hung it right on the front door for everyone to see?
Keep it lighthearted. When I am in the midst of a flurry of stress, I often stop everything and take a moment to laugh at myself and how silly I must looking running around like the sky is falling. Having a sense of humor not only makes your own life more enjoyable but it helps those around you to be less stressed as well. One of our friends sets the perfect example of this by keeping out plenty of candles in her living room and when unexpected guests come by in the evening she lights the candles and turns the lights off. She says it creates an ambiance and helps hide the dust. “The dust has a pretty glow to it…” she jokes.
This past weekend we had a get together. We invited a few of our friends and their families over to decorate cupcakes and to watch whatever football game was on (I’m gratefully clueless). I had a lot of fun baking cupcakes, making icing, and making different trays and dishes to serve to them. However, when they arrived there were still dirty dishes in the sink and the den could have used a vacuuming. This is where guest list is important :). I knew we had all been pretty busy but still wanted to have people over for the holidays, I knew I didn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to make my house “perfect” and so I invited friends that I knew were in the same boat as me : overworked and just grateful to get together! No one cast a second glance at my dirty dishes and we all had a great time.
5. Every meal has to be a traditional feast.
This is one myth that my family bursts wide open each year when we gather at Mama’s house for our Christmas gathering. By this time we’re plum done in on turkey, ham, and dressing, and ready for a little non traditional food. While we still have the usual holiday desserts, our main meal usually consists of Tex-Mex. This is the only time of the year we eat Mexican at Mama’s and it is a real treat!
6. If I’m going to give homemade gifts, its going to take more time than I have.
While crocheting a scarf would be a lovely thought, not many of us have the kind of time that would need to be invested to accomplish that for everyone on our list. Gift mixes to the rescue! Gift mixes may be put together assembly line style by the entire family and make beautiful gifts that can be enjoyed after the sweets of Christmas have faded away. You’re also giving the receiver the gift of time in the kitchen with their family – just with the added convenience of your ready made mix! I have several gift mix ideas complete with labels on SouthernPlate.com.
7. It all has to be perfectly wrapped.
With Christmas budgets already tight, gift wrapping can be a considerable expense, especially if you add in designer bows and the fancier paper. As with gifts, the thought behind the wrapping carries even more weight than whether or not it is reversible designed gold foil. Smaller gifts can easily be wrapped in brown paper lunch sacks and trimmed with a pretty bow or curling ribbon. Larger gifts can be wrapped in kraft paper (that brown paper like you would wrap packages with) and then allow the kids to decorate it especially for the receiver with markers and crayons. Gift tags are great if you let your kids make them themselves. Santa usually leaves a few gifts unwrapped beneath our tree on Christmas morning as well.
8. Nothing I bake will be good enough unless I make it from scratch.
Pfft. Cake and cookie mixes are here to make our life easier. Use ‘em. (See #3)
9. You have to visit your entire family.
This is something my parents had to do as children and we did for the first part of our childhood but after a while of getting up on Christmas morning and opening out new toys, then having to be dragged away and spend the rest of the day going from house to house when we really wanted to be home, my parents decided that enough was enough. Personally, I feel if you have small children and family members who don’t have small children and are able to travel, they should come to you. How much more meaningful will it be for your children to get to share Christmas morning with their grandparents, playing together and talking, rather than in holiday traffic? Christmas is about home and family. If your kids are young, see if you can arrange a family gathering before the big day or invite family members to your house.
10. You have to take professional photos and send them out in fancy cards
Pfft. No one says professional portraits have to be taken to include in cards and I can’t imagine someone being disappointed by you sending out cards that cost $5.00 a box versus $50.00. Christmas cards are a traditional way to reach out to friends and loved ones with well wishes and are still very much appreciated today. It is a lovely thought on your part and a treat on the receiver. All that is needed is a card from your heart, signed with love and well wishes by your hand.
11. The most expensive toys will be the best received.
Did you know there is a Toy Hall Of Fame? There sure is, and guess what toy got inducted this year? The stick. I kid you not. The stick just got inducted into the National Toy Hall Of Fame.
Past inductees have been Legos, the baby doll, the ball, and tinker toys. All classics, even if a bit obvious. This just goes to show that the majority of today’s newfangled toys will not become classics and a sad number of them won’t even be remembered past a few days into the new year so don’t berate yourself if folks aren’t unwrapping big dollar items from you. As with everything Christmas, make sure you put love and thought into your gifts and they will be received with love and gratitude.
If you have anyone on your list who feels otherwise, just be glad the Grinches are few and far between!
12. You can never have too many Christmas lights.
Alright, this one myth is gonna have to be debunked by someone else because in my mind, there is no such thing as *enough* Christmas lights! So if you’re like me, GRISWOLD AWAY!!!!
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS!
Love is whats in the room with you at Christmas
if you stop opening presents and listen.
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