Another holiday season is upon us.  For those of us who celebrate Christmas, December is often described as a roller coaster.  It’s fast, there are many high and low points, there is often lots of screaming (both from excitement and anxiety), and it all ends rather suddenly making you feel both exhilarated and exhausted. As a working mother, the demands and expectations of this season can be particularly daunting.  After all, we are still managing our already over-stuffed lives while adding an endless list of must do holiday-related tasks and events.

Many years and three kids have taught me a thing or two about surviving this season.  I think the most important lesson I’ve learned, however, is we must embrace our own holiday traditions.  Our plugged-in social media society makes it virtually impossible to not at least glimpse how everyone else in our lives is celebrating their holidays.  Coming to understand that my family’s traditions do not need to look like everyone else’s in order to still be amazing was extremely freeing.  Do I enjoy seeing my friends and family members enjoying their Christmas season? Of course! I will “like” every one of those pictures filled with smiling faces and sparkling lights.  In my home, however, we will continue to celebrate in our own way and we will do our best to enjoy every single minute.

The Christmas Tree.  We do not chop down a Christmas tree every year. In fact, we do not buy a real tree of any sort. All of those great photos you see on Facebook of families smiling in the middle of a tree farm? Our family will not be among them.  Instead, the Saturday after Thanksgiving my husband hauls up our fake Christmas tree from the basement. Every year, without fail, he says that attempting to carry this heavy, misshapen sack up a flight of stairs and around the corners of our non-open floor plan home is like trying to dispose of a dead body.  He then drops it unceremoniously in my living room where it lays (sometimes for several days) until the kids and I have time to set it up and decorate it (which we do while playing Christmas music and eating popcorn). You will also not see a picture of my husband holding up one of our children as they put the star (or angel) on our tree.  You see, the only space I can fit my Christmas tree has a rather low ceiling and the star does not fit.  So I sort of place it near the top and bend those fake branches around it so it will not topple off. Done.

The Elf. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I hate the Elf on the Shelf.  My hatred for the Elf is multi-faceted and I’ll save those reasons for another time.  Mostly I hate the Elf because I am not very creative and I am extremely busy.  I am usually asleep on my feet by the time I drag myself to bed.  As I prepare for bed, my busy brain is still working overtime reviewing tomorrow’s schedule, mentally adding items to my to do list, and wondering if I will have anything clean to wear. Most nights I drop into bed, wrap the warm blankets around me and begin to relax into sleep. It is at that point, just as sleep begins to fog my brain, that I remember that I need to move the Elf. Did I mention I’m not creative? I’m especially boring at 11:00 at night when I’m half-asleep. So…our Elf is not very fun.  She moves around most nights and the baby still delights in trying to find her every morning.  My older girls usually roll their eyes when they see the day’s typical placement.  They may even throw in a, “wow, third time she’s decided to hide in the tree” comment just to get their digs into me. It is what it is.

Christmas Cards. I cannot get my act in gear for Christmas cards every year. Finding a photo, designing the card, ordering the cards for the best possible price, finding addresses, addressing the envelopes, REMEMBERING TO BUY STAMPS, and finally dropping those cards into the mailbox just can’t get done every year. I’ve come to embrace this reality and my new goal is every other year. Guess what everyone? This is the year. You will get a card from the Orris Family this year–hopefully before Valentine’s Day. Please excuse me while I put BUY STAMPS on my To Do List.

Christmas Lights. We decorate the outside of our home with Christmas lights.  Our house would never be considered for one of those TV competitions and our light show is in no way creative.  We have different colored lights which I use in the very same way every year.  My house does not resemble any front porches you may see in Pottery Barn catalogs. Remember I have a fake Christmas tree? I have a fake wreath too. It’s pre-lit with battery powered lights and I love it. I grab it from the basement, hang it on my door, click the button, and I’ve got lights. We also have an inflatable snowman and Santa Claus in our yard.  Last year we added Olaf.  I remember being in my twenties, driving around looking at Christmas lights with my husband saying, “Why, ON EARTH, would someone put all of those hideous inflatable objects in his yard?? They are so NOT classy.” Now I now why. Kids. We get those inflatables up by the end of Thanksgiving weekend and my children love them.

Christmas Cookies. I am not much of a baker. I actually have no love for it at all.  So you will not find me spending my Saturday evenings in December baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, or whipping up multiple batches of fudge with my kids.  Instead, I have found a way to turn this rather un-enjoyable task into an opportunity to spend time with my two favorite women. Every year my mother, my sister, and I pick a Sunday afternoon in December and write “Cookie Day” on our calendars.  On that day my sister’s family and mine invade my mother’s kitchen with every thing we need to bake every cookie someone in our family may desire.  The husbands camp out in front of football, the kids play, and we bake.  We order greasy burgers and fries from a local drive-in and make my father pick it up.  We put the same Christmas music CD on repeat for the entire afternoon and evening. We call in the children when they are needed for decorating but kick them back out again as soon as we can. Cookie day is for us.  We talk, we laugh, we make a mess, and we eat too much cookie dough.  I always return home after cookie day feeling happy, tired, and a bit sick to my stomach (from the raw eggs of course). My family then indulges on mountains of Christmas cookies well into January enjoying every single bite.

Christmas in the City. Every year we venture into New York City to see the lights.  We made this trip even when the kids were younger. My husband and I are comfortable in the city and with crowds and we never miss a year.  We always take the train (which the kids love), we find a family friendly place for dinner (usually pizza) and then we push through the madness in Rockefeller Center and Fifth Avenue to see the beauty this great city has to offer at Christmas. Nothing gets me into the spirit of the season more than our annual evening in the city.

I have to say, I think my family’s Christmas traditions are fantastic.  I have been attempting to make Christmas magical and beautiful for my children for almost fourteen years now.  Every year has gotten easier and every year has been more enjoyable.  Good luck, Moms. Take it easy, enjoy the little moments, and make some beautiful memories.

Photo Credit S. Orris

Photo Credit S. Orris

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