Monday, December 09, 2013

Christmas season should be full of joy, not stress

From Friday's Briefing:

Oh, December. The month we welcome and loathe, anticipate and fear.
Every Christmas season, I promise to scale back, to stress less, to say “no” more often. I’m never successful.
This year, I have a different approach. I’m not messing around with generalities. I’m setting specific goals.
I will not use ribbons or bows on packages. This flies in the face of everything I’ve learned from magazines, Pinterest, crafty friends and adorable boutiques all over Dallas: Presentation counts. Cuteness matters.
I’m ignoring all that and instead placing presents under the tree that are wrapped and tagged but totally devoid of flair. It’s a small step, but in the end it will save me a little bit of money and a little bit of time.
My strong hope is that the people on my gift list — all people who I love — won’t be offended by the lack of adornment.
I will be choosy about Christmas decor. After 20 years of post-college adulthood, I’ve accumulated plenty of stuff to decorate the house. You might say too much stuff.
In years past, I’ve removed almost all of the everyday framed photos and knickknacks from our living spaces to make room for Christmas-themed photos and knickknacks.
This year, if I don’t absolutely love a Christmas item, it stays in the box. It’s less work now and less work on New Year’s Day, when December is stashed away and everyday life returns.
I won’t feel guilty about not sending Christmas cards. I once was a prolific card sender. Cards would include a photo and handwritten note. Envelopes were also handwritten and were usually decorated with fun stickers or stamps.
It’s been six years since I blanketed family and friends with Christmas cards.
That’s because it’s been six years since Steve first started showing signs of brain cancer. We were consumed with medical care.
Then I became a single mom. A grieving single mom who couldn’t bear the thought of sending family cards with one less family member. So I didn’t, and I still haven’t.
But I feel pangs of guilt and regret every season, worried that folks will think I’ve forgotten them or that I’ve lost all joy and cheer.
One day I will return to my card-sending ways, but not this year. I’ve got plenty of joy and cheer stored up — I’ll just have to share it in person.
I won’t skimp on traditions we love, however. There are some non-negotiable December activities. We decorate our Christmas tree with precision and care, leaving almost no branch empty. We host with open arms Little Red Charlie, our Elf on the Shelf.
We attend a live Nativity. We watch ElfA Charlie Brown Christmas and The Polar Express — almost always while sipping hot chocolate.
We participate in the 7 p.m. Christmas Eve services at our church and sing “Silent Night” by candlelight. We leave cookies and milk for Santa.
We eat baked apple French toast for breakfast Christmas morning. We open gifts one at a time. No free-for-all frenzy.
We fall asleep early Christmas night, exhausted from so much celebrating, and we begin to look forward to January — a month with a little less expectation and a little less built-in stress.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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