816 North Opinion

A lazy mom’s guide to Christmas magic

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At Thanksgiving we all ate the same thing. Sure there were some minor variations and some bold outliers who had barbecue, but mostly? Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, ubiquitous green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

Those celebrating also shared a version of a common theme: Thanks. Gratitude. Appreciation of what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t.

But Christmas is a whole other deal. While Thanksgiving was pretty much a countrywide Thanksfest, Christmas is gloriously all over the place. Is it a religious holiday? How religious? Daily devotions and mid-week services during Advent, or only candlelight on Christmas Eve?

Is it a secular holiday? How secular? No mention of baby Jesus? Simply a celebration of family and love?

Presents? How many? For whom?

To make this season even more complicated it’s not a single day, is it? There is the actual Christmas Day, but then there are all those other Christmases with family and friends who you can’t be with ON the 25th. When is it too much? Can it be too much?

I have no answers, only more differences.

Some years I’m giddy for our family’s Christmas traditions. I perkily repeat often and to whomever will listen, “If you celebrate the day you get ONE day; if you celebrate the season you get weeks of it! Wheeeee!”

And then there are other years when I want to punch Perky Susan in the face.

This may be one of those years. I’m trying to find my holiday oomph, but so far have failed.

I’ve had the Pretty Pinterest years, but “had” is the operative word in this sentence. I’m not saying they won’t ever be revisited (really, once you possess wreath-making skills, it’s hard to keep them restrained), but now? This year? While I wait for the high-octane holiday juice to kick in (or not), I’m going to be kind to myself: I’m going Christmas Lazy.

▪ While I was still cramming Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge, the kids were ready for tree decorating … so I let them do it all, no micromanaging. They set it up, strung the lights, the ornaments, and even cleaned up the mess (our fake tree is so realistic it drops needles).

Teenage Luke hauled boxes, teenage Bekah did 90 percent of the tree decorating and tween Noah kept dumping a jar of jingle bells on the floor, filling it back up and dumping it out again. (I’ve found quite a few of those bells in very odd spots: How did one get into the bathroom? Into a shoe? Under a pillow? Really helpful, Son.)

▪ This year I’m not planning a bake-a-thon. There have been years when I baked until my sweat tasted like sugar and I smelled like vanilla for days. This year? If I must, it’s going to be bar cookies, or anything with “bark” in the title. Maximum cookies for minimum work.

▪ Other years I’ve gotten a thrill out of the hunt for perfect gifts. This year the kids are sending me links to things they might like. Click. Buy. Done. They will be thrilled I didn’t go rogue, “list, shmist….”

▪ I am sticking to a few traditions: I’ve watched several Hallmark Christmas movies, already bought more wrapping paper than I’ll need and yelled at the radio several times, “How is this a Christmas song?! The mom DIES!”

Everyone and every year we all celebrate differently. There is no one recipe for Christmas, but there can be a theme: Appreciating all those differences? Focusing on your own, not what your neighbor is doing? That’s Christmas magic.

Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. To listen to the women’s history podcast she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com.