In part, I think getting married has really changed Christmas for me. Not in a bad way--but it's different, and it has taken some adjustment to really embrace again. Growing up, I was all about our family traditions and doing things the same way each year. It's just how we always did things, and that's what happened. We spent all of our breaks from school watching movies every night, eating a lot of popcorn, making Christmas cookies, wrapping presents, putting up the tree, going to church on Christmas Eve, driving by lights, sleeping in, eating midday meals, random spaghetti dinners and deviled eggs, decorations, etc. etc. Things didn't even really change when I went to college--I still moved home for the holidays and we celebrated the season like we usually did. But getting married and moving to my own house and acquiring another family did change the holidays for me.
Husband's family is big. Not like...just six people or something big, but it is BIG big. I have a little tiny family--and extended members aren't involved in our Christmas or Thanksgiving get-togethers, so really, there were always only four or five of us for these events. On a few rare occasions, on Thanksgiving, we'd travel to my grandma's and there would be eight or nine of us. All in all, my family's holidays are quiet with eating and talking--and there are no children around. So when I first started holidaying with my husband's family, I was in for quite a shock. Holidays in their household mean 15 to 25 people around at all times.With kids. Not quiet, kind of chaotic, and very different from the holidays I always experienced. Holidays there mean getting up real early with excited kids tearing through wrapping paper before they're supposed to and eating waffles around the big table, dodging syrupy hands and making sure no one is falling out of his chair. When my family had kids around, the kids were my brother and I. And when there was noise, we were making it. At any rate, I found it a bit challenging to go from only ever being involved in one Christmas, to being part of three of them. Sometimes all in one day. I had always heard about holiday stress, but I always thought it was silly. Until I allowed myself to have it.
I say "allowed" because I strongly believe that I don't have to be stressed at the holidays, no matter how many Christmases I attend. The first three-Christmas year I had, I was wrapped up in new-found love (aww) and everything and anything was the best thing ever. So I wasn't stressed at all. Overwhelmed slightly, but not stressed. Then again, I was still with my family most of the season, so nothing felt too too different. However, as husband and I's relationship grew into a pretty serious thing (who'm I kidding? It was serious from the get-go.), the holidays began to feel difficult. We'd argue over where we were going what day and what time. We'd be at the first Christmas but worrying about if we were going to get to the second to leave for the third on time. One year we even spent one of the car rides to one of the Christmases yelling at one another! Fun! Christmas, at this point, for me, kind of felt more like a required hassle and less joyous. I wasn't looking forward to it as much, and I felt overwhelmed with trying to be everywhere in two days and worrying about disappointing people if we weren't spending equal time with everyone. I took it upon myself to try and find perfect presents, some for new relatives I didn't even know very well, and I wasn't enjoying myself. It was hard for me, as I had always just oozed Christmas joy, and I didn't know what to do with negative feelings. In fact, I didn't even really understand why those feelings were there for a while.
Last Christmas, when beginning to feel stress and the bah-humbug kind of feeling, I thought to myself that there really was no good reason to have it. That, really and truly, no one was demanding anything of me, no one but myself. I had no new family members pushing us to be one place or another, I had no original family members saying we had to do only one thing one way. With life's changes, Christmas changed too--and it was okay. I had been so used to everything happening one way with only a few traditions that it was difficult for me to see the holidays in any other way. It was hard to do different things, when I was so attached to the old ones. Looking back, I realize that joining a new family really honestly meant I was an adult finally. And it was hard to say a real, true goodbye to my childhood that I was very, very attached to (way to go, parents of mine, you made it pretty darn special :)). So, last year (maybe the year before? things blend together in my head), I made up my mind to get myself a new attitude and get back into my usual spirit.
I shopped with purpose and thought behind the gifts I selected, but I didn't make myself crazy trying to figure out what would be perfect for everyone. I didn't worry about time or schedule, and instead put on a smile for the Christmases we attended. I enjoyed everyone's company and the fact that my husband's family is connected to so many of its members. I enjoyed the waffles, handed the kids their presents and laughed when they tore into the wrong ones, ate lots of food that made me want to run 900 miles, and snuck some hugs with husband behind all the activity. In all, I had to adjust my Christmas spirit because my life changed and my family expanded. I'm not going to be one of those people who hates their in-laws for existing, nor am I going to suffer through the holidays because I have to see them. Really, I don't HAVE to see anyone--I get the opportunity to do so, and I take it because, as I've stated before, people don't last forever. I am very lucky to have a warm and welcoming new family in my life, and I enjoy spending time with them. When my husband and I decided to join our lives together, we also decided to join each other's families and all the traditions that come with them. And instead of mourning the loss of a few things I don't do anymore, I am celebrating all the things I do now. And let's not forget to mention TWICE (sometimes three times!) the amount of food!
It has always really bothered me when people complain about Christmas. I love the music, the decorations, the whole darn experience. And when I became one of the complainers for a short time, I began to understand why the complaints exist--and I also understand why it is so important to get rid of them. No one wants to be around a cranky person during the holidays. And there is so much to be thankful for that it is an absolute shame to not appreciate one of the few times of the year when people actually put aside their busy lives and come together. The holidays don't have to be miserable, and they shouldn't be. Over and over again, I realize that the only person who makes me miserable is me. It's not fun, and it's not becoming. It's not attractive or enjoyable for anyone else. Forget about the war over Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays, forget about finding people perfect presents. Forget about being a jerk because you feel like it, resenting your family members, beating yourself up over eating too much food, scowling in public, burning cookies, and generally disliking life. Forget about blaming everyone else for your bad attitude. Embrace the season--and whatever it is you celebrate--embrace your family--all of it--and realize how lucky you are to spend time with the people you love. How lucky you aer to simply be breathing. Your attitude and enjoyment (or lack thereof) will certainly matter when you are dead. Stop grinching around, get your car a Rudolph outfit, and buy some ridiculous gifts!
From WillItMatterWhenImDead to all of you, Happy Holidays! : )
PS: Still accepting cookie donations. Also, I really want a Rudolph set for my car. Husband says it is stupid. I just haven't found one yet, or the Malibu would be all Christmased up, regardless of Husband's silly opinion.