I don't know why, but every year around this time I start to feel kinda sad. I think it's because: 1. My kids go to their dad's on Christmas Eve Eve and have their own Christmas with him, and wake up in the morning to open their presents, then return home in the evening so we can have our own Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. This sounds like a pretty good deal, huh? I mean, if you have to share your kids and all. But it makes me kind of sad because it breaks up my "week" with the kids and I always feel like we get cheated out of a day of possible holiday wonderful-ness, even if we do absolutely nothing. I don't know. I can't explain it. And 2. The other reason is because we have absolutely NO family living in Washington or the nearby surrounding area with which to celebrate the holiday. I wish, and especially at Christmas, that my family all lived close by so that we could have one of those huge family gatherings with noise and chaos and little kids running around, and a big dinner and "feast", and the endless telling of stories from holidays past. Instead, we've had to create our own traditions and Christmas is a quiet little day with just our family. Which is lovely, but we have many, many quiet celebrations with just our family and at Christmas, I want noise and chaos. And people. Especially the people I love the most.
And, as my last Scroog-ey post illustrated, it's been kind of a non-Christmas-y season for me. I always have high hopes and expectations that never seem to get fulfilled, often for lack of resources or time. For instance, I'd love nothing more than to have a tradition of going downtown at Christmas time and doing all the "Christmas-y" things and seeing a show and perhaps staying all night in one of the hotels. But that's always out of the picture, especially at Christmas, when all the finances go towards gifts. I know I could plan for this, and perhaps I will and start a new tradition, but it always bums me out when I want so much to take the kids to a fun show but can't swing it. Last year it was Radio City Rockettes Christmas Spectacular or The Christmas Story musical. This year it was Cinderella. I thought that would be amazing. Jeff says I set the bar too high.....my expectations are unrealistic and I should just enjoy things as they unfold. And I know he's right. But I still wish.......
It's not that we don't have traditions of our own. We make and decorate sugar cookies, build a fort to sleep in, buy Christmas pajamas, open Advent calendars, watch Christmas movies. But I think as the chief shopper, wrapper, organizer and do-er, it's a lot harder to even find the time to relax and enjoy. While the kids are watching Christmas movies, I'm doing chores or working on something else. I do plan to just chill on Christmas eve and day, and perhaps get some of those movies watched. But it seems every year, before I know it, this day is here and it feels "too late" to get everything done I wanted to. And yet......everything is done that needs to be.
One of my favorite parts of Christmas is checking the mail every day to see if we've received Christmas cards. I LOVE getting Christmas cards. I love seeing pictures of friends and family, reading Christmas letters or just seeing all the pretty cards that arrive. Getting the mail is never more fun than in December. But this year, I've noticed we've received less cards than normal. And I've heard many, many friends say they have given up sending out holiday greetings. Too expensive, not enough time, never got a good picture, never had time to write a letter. I get all of that. Every year I turn into mean mom as I force my family to get a good family picture. I'm not one to send out anything other than a photo taken specifically for the holiday (beach photos in December? Pumpkin patch? LAME!). I try to make it fun, I really do, but anyone who takes pictures knows getting six people to look good in one picture is a feat. Then, there's the time required to design the card. Even if it's a Costco card, it takes time to decide which card design you like and which picture goes where. This year I went with Walgreen's and had the option of several pictures so I spent tons of time arranging and rearranging the photos and sending text picture messages to the kids for approval. Finally, we decided on a card and I sent in the order. And, they are quite expensive. Certainly at holiday time when there are so many other expenses, I can see why people forgo cards. But, STOP IT! You're making me sad. I want all those cards. I love them! I even love looking through them after the holidays and re-reading the letters, and cutting the fronts off all the pretty cards to store in my shoebox of old Christmas card covers to re-use in some creative way another year. So......I wish more people would still send Christmas cards.
Tonight we drove around and looked at some really cool light displays. That is one of my most favorite things of all about the season. It's fun, it's free, and it's truly amazing what people come up with. The time and effort that goes into those displays really says something about their holiday spirit. And I loved that almost every display had a donation station for canned food to benefit a local food bank. What a great way to benefit those in need while creating a beautiful display for nothing but the pure pleasure people get from looking at all those sparkling lights.
Despite the melancholy that comes from the season for all of the above reasons, I love nothing more than watching my kids open all the gifts I've selected for them. Some years it's exciting because we've purchased "THE gift" and I can't wait to see them open it and be amazed. Other times it's the little things - like the appreciation they show each other for the gifts they've selected themselves for each of their siblings. At their ages, they no longer bring home the precious homemade gifts from the elementary school years, which I loved and cherished. But I still love watching them watch others open their gifts.
Most of all I love what traditionalists my kids have become about Christmas. In their minds, there are just some things that cannot be forgotten at Christmastime or done any differently. God forbid we don't have chocolate Advent calendars by Dec. 1 (thanks to Jeff for saving the day on that one this year as I was sick). I keep wondering how long the kids will build a fort and all sleep together on the floor of Harrison's room, but they keep doing it and put a ton of time and energy into it. We always have to buy everyone a new ornament each year. We have to make cookies for Santa, even though the "Believe" factor has long since departed. We have to watch "Elf" and other Christmas movies over and over. We still display all our Christmas story books even though no one really reads them anymore. All the old CDs of Christmas music are still played over and over. These traditions are precious. And cherished.
One nice thing about a low-key Christmas is that we don't sweat it if there's not a big, fancy dinner. Some years we've even skipped dinner for all the snacking that's done during the day. I love not having to stress over a big holiday meal. We have "feast", a collection of our favorite snacky foods, and we're all blissfully happy with that. We don't have to travel (with the exception of driving Arlie over the mountains the day after Christmas and the day before school starts again), and there's no pressure to have the house sparkling clean or be on any type of schedule. It's "chill".
So, the excitement is building and tomorrow it will be even more. There will likely not be a 5 a.m. wake up call of excited children bouncing on the bed waiting to see what Santa brought. With four teens in the house, no one will be up at the crack of dawn, which is another bonus - we get to sleep in! Merry Christmas Eve Eve to you! (Oops, it's midnight! Merry Christmas Eve!).