Decking the Halls with Holiday Insanity

So here we are, in the midst of another holiday season. Some were early this year, some were late.  Some are still waiting. The whirlwind of the season is exhausting, exhilarating and exciting. Half the time, I enjoy all the hullabaloo, the other half of the time, I wish it was over already. I like to shop, but with a deadline and a lot of people on my list, it isn’t as enjoyable than “I feel like buying a new dress” shopping. Not to mention that it’s killer on the feet!
Actually, one thing about this season that’s worked in my favor is the fact that I am still unemployed. When I was working, I would take a day off, usually a Friday, and start at 9:00, hit every mall in the area (and if you live in Bergen County, you know that’s a LOT of malls), plus a few stand-alone stores, and wrap it up close to 5:00. I’d manage to cram in just about everyone and have only a few leftover to pick up on shorter excursions. This year, I’ve been able to spread it to one mall a day, with a couple stand alones here and there. So there is that.
But there’s still lots more to be done. In our house, we did away with the real Christmas tree several years ago and bought a really nice artificial. We were so tired of lugging the tree, trimming it to fit, vacuuming several times a week, checking the water, and so on. Ugh. This artificial tree looks just as nice, plus it’s pre-lit, so it’s easy in that regard. Only have to hang the beads and ornaments. Years ago, when we had a cat, tinsel and tinsel garland were out of the question because she used to munch on it, which is very very bad for cats. So we used strings of beads, all different shapes and sizes, in gold. And they look really really pretty.
I also set up a Christmas in the City village on my bay window, complete with fake snow and a bunch of people. I even have the Brooklyn Bridge on a side table to lead the way toward Ebbets Field. My kids like that part the best, and I have an assortment of Santas that adorn the dining room table. It makes the house feel festive.
We also bake cookies. I make all kinds – toffee bars, pecan pie squares, chocolate-drizzled sponge squares, raspberry ribbon cookies, and so on. This year, unemployment is again taking a load off for me – I don’t have to make nearly as many as I usually do, since I always brought a giant platter of them to the office to share with coworkers and thank them for all their support.
And don’t forget the holiday cards! Must make time to do that.
As far as Christmas, it has always worked out well for us. My husband’s family has always had their big celebration on Christmas Eve, with the traditional Italian Seven Fishes dinner, though I think we’re down to four now since some of the items on the menu in years past were made specifically for certain people, who sadly are no longer with us. It’s always an enjoyable evening, and the kids just keep the excitement level at fever pitch. Of course, we must be home in time for Santa to come. My little guy is still a believer (I think), though I suspect those days are almost over.
Christmas Day has always been my family’s traditional gathering day. My parents host and it’s fun to see everyone who doesn’t live close. Again, kids are crazed, but by the time we have dinner, they are calmer. Plus, A Christmas Story marathon is on, and everyone at one point or another ends up seeing the whole movie, even if it’s not sequentially.
I like keeping the traditions alive, there’s a comfort in them, a familiarity as we move through the season that makes everyone smile (usually). Of course, there are the usual school concerts, other holiday parties and the like in the midst of all of this. It’s no wonder we all drop like stones in the water on December 26.
Still, each one of those traditions has evolved a little each year as the kids get older and can do more things. My daughter spends New Year’s Eve with her friends now, instead of us, the cards have changed from going for a holiday portrait to taking our own and using Vistaprint and having them pre-signed, cookie recipes have been swapped out for newer ones, things like that. So as much as it’s the same, it’s also different and new, which adds to the fun. Or is it more like insanity?
So what are your traditions? The best, or the worst? Have they stayed the same, changed, or disappeared altogether? I’ve got a few things we don’t do anymore, but never fear, I will always wear my reindeer antlers and giant jingle bells. In the spirit of the season, I’m giving away a goodie bag of swag and some things from my prize chest, as well as a few books. So tell me about your holiday traditions and you could win a present from me!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I both love and loathe this time of year. I love it because for the most part, people act human, and it’s such a joy to enjoy all the sights of the season. Plus my kids’ excitement is infectious, so you can’t help smiling or laughing with them. I loathe it because it also brings out the worst in people – rudeness, stupidity and a total lack of all human decency. I spent an entire day on a marathon shopping spree, and for the most part, people were nice and helpful. But there were a few I would have loved to have clocked with my armloads of shopping bags.

The other reason the season grates is that there’s so much to do. Between all the pageants and concerts and plays, I feel like I spend a huge chunk of time in churches and school auditoriums. Not to mention the shopping – though with online shopping it is much easier than it used to be. But then there’s the tree to put up, my Christmas in the City houses that need to be put out, lights to put on the house, cookies to bake, and endless presents to wrap. Another dilemma facing me is hiding the kids’ gifts. My daughter is 14, so she knows who Santa is, but my 6 year old son is still a believer, and had quite a list to present to Santa when we visited this year. And my hiding places are growing more and more limited each year.

But the tree is up (not without some drama from above-mentioned 14 year old), the houses are out (with some heart-stopping moments from the 6 year old who insists on playing with the people!), lights are bright and cheery on the house, and the cookie ingredients are ready (I’ll be bringing some to my critique group holiday gathering, so get ready ladies). So I guess I’m ahead of things this year, which is unusual. Of course, my house looks like a few dozen bombs went off since yesterday, so there’s the downside. There’s always a downside, isn’t there? Overall, though, we had a lot of fun

But the point is, I really am feeling the season this year. Definitely more love than loathe. Last year, I had foot surgery, so everything was rushed and then I was disabled and couldn’t do much of anything, making it a “loathing” year. So I’m really enjoying even the maddening moments this year. The Ipod is loaded up with holiday songs that I’ve been playing every chance I get. And walking the malls was a lot less painful too.

What about everyone else? Are you ready? Close? What fun traditions do you have for the season, that really make it feel like holiday-time? Anyone expecting any lumps of coal this year? 😉 Hard to believe that a month-plus worth of prep is all over in a day!