The ghosts on my porch have stayed up until almost (okay maybe into) December the last three years. I love Halloween. People buy a bag of candy and spend time being nice to their neighbors and neighbors’ children. It’s easy and pleasant.
But as soon as Halloween is over, the holiday onslaught begins. And usually, immediately I’m stressed and worried.
To me, the modern holidays are full of menial tasks, guilt, and “stuff.” The “stuff” is what’s the hardest for me.
You see, I’m an over-consumer in denial. My house is full of “things” and I spend a great deal of time dusting them, rearranging them and stacking them in an effort to make people (including myself) believe that they are beautiful, necessary or both.
Most are neither but I cannot get rid of them. They were either gifts or purchases that I refuse to believe were impulse mistakes. To remove them would be offending someone who gave them to me or admitting I was wrong about a purchase.
Maybe I sound strange, but I know that I am not alone. The following is from a Time Business and Money article, “Got Stuff? Typical American Home Is Cluttered with Possessions — and Stressing Us Out.”
In the first home they entered, researchers listed more than 2,000 possessions on display in a mere three rooms.
Two thousand? That’s a lot of “things” to dust and arrange. I couldn’t handle that.
This is why the holidays are a challenge for me. There’s even more dusting and rearranging to make room for holiday decorations. Which reminds me of the “stuff” I will feel obligated to buy to give and the “stuff” my family will receive.
Oh, and did I mention we’re double-dippers? Yup, Greenberg is my married name so we celebrate both holidays. And although I know Hanukkah is not a major holiday in the Jewish faith, I feel obligated to try to not let it get completely overshadowed by the overdone Christmas holiday.
Eventually, after I get the holidays decorated and gifts wrapped and distributed and eat a few cookies and drink too much, I will have the new gifts to arrange and dust and head out to big-box retailers to buy storage for. Where I will see “stuff” I think I need. It’s a vicious cycle that’s so much worse with two children.
Every year we’re getting better at thinking the holidays through, though. Little ways the people in my life and I have started to avoid the “stuff” issue and keep the “celebrating.”
Because, when it comes down to it, I really do love the holidays. These five things are what finally got me to take down the Halloween decorations and move forward, and these are the things I want to focus on this year. I hope that you will take time and make your holiday about what you want and not the “stuff” advertising tells you that you should buy.
- Spending time with good people. For example, Christmas Eve I see my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad’s side. Love them to death and always enjoy their company. We always say we’ll see each other outside of funerals, weddings, and Christmas Eve. It doesn’t happen. Now that we’re all married, it’s even more important. The holidays are a time for parties and other events that draw people together to enjoy each other’s company that wouldn’t otherwise even meet.
- The food. Latkes, donuts, cider, cookies. Even better, this year I have my daughter and my son to help me bake things (my son had proven good at pizza-topping and even some stirring.) We celebrate Latkefest at my brother’s. He married a Jew last year, so they’re double-dippers too. I would define Latkefest as the culinary celebration of double-dipping. There are lots and lots of latkes and desserts and no gift giving. Total awesomeness.
- The magic. Whether it’s a kid’s face at the thought of elves building toys or the moment you let the impatient idiot onto the highway because “oh, it’s the holidays,” popped into your head, magic really happens. People may get mean at the mall and stress makes us ugly, but I think everyone experiences at least one magical “oh-heck-it’s-the-holidays” moment this time of year. And let’s not forget the magic that can come from believing the new year is a kind of “reset.” This year I hope to make more magical moments for others by surprising them with kindness.
- The religion. (I’m going to keep this short, please know my brevity is not meant to disrespect the importance of this.). Eight days of light from one day of oil? Very cool. One human born thousands of years ago has had and still has all this impact on the world? Whether you believe he’s the son of God or just another good Jew, his birth is worth a nod.
- The sights and the smells. Our living room smells like magic and ancient traditions during the holidays. The smell of evergreen from the tree mixes with cookies baking and Hanukkah candles burning. It looks like a story book, too, (as long as I keep the overhead lights off) with white lights on the mantel and tree accompanying the candles on the menorah.
This is a post about how holiday “stuff” can mean holiday stress.After this post, I will probably have a couple more on ideas for simpler holidays. You can also check out the Center for the New American Dream’s Simplify the Holidays guide for other ideas. If you want to know why you should consider simplifying the holidays and every day, check out the “Story of Stuff” video from the Story of Stuff Project.