The invitations are already mounting in my inbox. Holiday dinners and parties with friends, celebrations with extended family, annual seasonal soirees with coworkers, school-sponsored holiday events, Christmas-tree lightings downtown, festive holiday home tours, walk-through light displays at local parks, and meet-and-greets with Santa himself.
It's the same overwhelmingly jolly good time every year, and my instinct is to say yes to all of it. (I've always been a "the more the merrier" type of person when it comes to Christmas.) Sure I'll be able to find a sitter for every weekend night in December. Sure, I'll chaperone both kids' classroom holiday parties and coordinate and supply a craft that will thrill and occupy 24 5-year-olds. Of course I can make it to a festive house tour at 10 a.m., followed by a girls' lunch at noon, a Christmas-tree lighting at 6 p.m., and a company holiday party at 7:30. Sounds infinitely merry and bright.
This year, however, as I started plugging all the invitations I'd already accepted into my family's calendar, I was met with a not-so-cheerful reality. Thanksgiving is late this year, giving us just three weeks between returning from our family's turkey day celebration (this year at my brother's home in the Pacific Northwest) and our annual holiday trip to Florida, where Santa finds us among the palm trees, and we enjoy Christmas and the New Year in denial that we'll be returning to three months of hard Midwestern winter.
Now, three weeks would be plenty of time if the only things on my family's holiday calendar were parties and fun events. But, as every parent knows, that's just the icing on the Christmas cake. Because as my schedule currently lies, unless Santa shares some his magic, there's no way that I'm going to also trim a tree and decorate my home, send out Christmas cards, and, most importantly, buy and wrap the presents that will keep my kids, ages 5 and 8, believing in the magic of this whole flipping holiday.
The idea of packing all of that Christmas craziness into a mere 21 days is stressing me out to an intense degree almost a month before any of it begins, which tells me that I need to seriously put the breaks on our holiday calendar before I turn into a Grinch before we even carve our Thanksgiving turkey.
My solution: schedule one full weekend (I'm choosing the one right before Christmas) when I add not a single event to our family's calendar other than just focusing on the true meaning of the season — spending quality time with each other. I'm sure they'll be some last-minute shopping and wrapping that needs to be done, some pre-trip packing I'll need to start, but other than that, I'm envisioning a weekend filled with Christmas music and the smell of cookies baking in our kitchen, with driving around to look at neighborhood lights, with drinking wine and having a picnic dinner between the Christmas tree and our fireplace. Basically, with slowing down enough to remember why we do all of this in the first place.
So before you fill your December with events that will eventually blur together in a holiday haze, I highly suggest you too schedule the one thing you really need this holiday season: a chance to sit back and simply enjoy.