Enjoying the Holiday Season

The following is adapted from a column published in the Craig Daily Press in 2012.

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My husband Joel and I disagree about holiday movies. He refuses to watch A Christmas Story every year, and I’m not interested in reruns of Miracle on 34th Street.

Compared to other anxiety-ridden situations that surface during the holidays, disagreeing about whether to watch the shenanigans of a department store Santa or Ralphie’s pleas for a BB gun seem insignificant.

Fortunately, we have experts eager to tell us how to glide gracefully through the holiday season without exploding into hysteria, eating a pound of peanut brittle, or crawling under a bed.

Their advice flows freely: Get enough sleep. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Stay within your budget. Relax in a bubble bath before your guests arrive.

Right.

They warn that when we deny ourselves the special foods of the season, we’ll binge later on stale marshmallows. Instead, we should indulge in all the goodies that come our way, but only sample them: take half of a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream.

Seriously? Might as well ask a flea not to bite.

Despite expert advice, most of us experience stress during the holidays. We over-schedule our lives and become cranky as we rush about. We grow too weary, or drink more than a sip or two of eggnog, and then say things we regret. We question gifts we receive—elf house slippers or salt-and-peppershakers from Branson—and worry when others don’t seem to like the gift we gave them.

And through it all, we wonder why we don’t feel the joy of Christmas like we did when young: everybody happy, everything beautiful, each moment perfect. Advice columnists answer this one correctly: the wonder of childhood Christmases cannot be duplicated; nor were they perfect.

As an adult, looking through my Aunt Mary’s photograph album, I came across a snapshot she took when I was eight — the year I asked Santa for a redheaded princess doll. The photo, dated 1950, showed me bludgeoning my brother Bob with a blonde baby doll, and bawling, as we battled in front of a Christmas tree that tilted awkwardly to one side, as though trying to escape.

But I remember the Christmases of my childhood as perfectly joyous occasions.

And I wish the same for you in 2014.