The spirit of Christmas, Part 1.

photoIf a dog eats a treasured piece of artwork, but leaves only the cardboard mounting so that you’re unsure which treasured piece of art has been eaten, was it really very treasured? Let’s go with no. I might feel differently after the evidence morphs into colorful logs of poop. At least Damn Gem didn’t eat any hidden Christmas presents. I know this for a fact because I haven’t purchased any.

Oh, Christmas. Can you remind me again of the reason for the season? Because right now it seems to be dollar signs and chocolate. And I like chocolate as much as the next suburban housewife (not the crappy stuff – I like the expensive organic dark chocolate toffee free trade bars, purchased theoretically to eat one little square per day, more realistically one little square per hour), but for the love of the Little Drummer Boy, if I just sit around eating chocolate and typing my credit card number into the Amazon checkout box, January is going to find me fat and broke and bitter.

PUH-LEEZE don’t go all Jesus on me. Seriously. If there is a Jesus peering down at us, he is not getting excited about his birthday. He’s just not. He’s up there going, HOLY JEZEBEL, STOP SAYING PEACE ON EARTH IF YOU CAN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE EBOLA CATASTROPHE UNLESS IT’S CLOSER THAN AN OCEAN AWAY. Yeah, I think Jesus probably curses.

I honestly believe the reason for the season should be a generosity of spirit, a genuine Goodwill toward Humanity. A willingness to share in the suffering. And I think a lot of us believe this in our hearts, but get sucked into the vortex of omnipresent advertising and the pressure of children. YES. I said it. Children are the problem.

Hold on, there. Don’t firebomb my house. Raccoons got into my trash last night and that was bad enough. Go take some deep breaths, pour another cup of coffee/scotch, and come back. I’ll wait.

I love my children. I LOVE THEM with a ferocity I hope I never have to demonstrate, because someone might die. But if you are right now panicked about this coming week, let’s dissect that anxiety. Let me speak from experience and guess that you’ve got to: buy teacher gifts*, order the junk your kids want from Santa, have presents shipped to young relatives out of town, bake and decorate Christmas cookies, feel guilty about not sending out holiday cards, and call someone to repair the hole your son punched in his bedroom wall.**

*Teacher gifts! Last year the room mother for one of my kids’ classes collected enough money for two Coach bags and a $200 gift card. What? My girlfriend who teaches in an inner city school told me she got four homemade cards and an apple. 

**Some tasks may not apply to all

Most of us are teaching our children to expect too much – from the holidays, from Santa, and from life. Yesterday I heard the great Ashton Kutcher say something that really resonated with me. I hope to Demi Moore he was quoting someone else because I can’t go around quoting the star of Dude, Where’s My Car? He said: I don’t believe we need to create a better world for our children – I think we need to make better children for our world.


Christmastime cannot only be about Santa and gift-giving, but nor can it be about the birth of one baby 2014 years ago. It has evolved to represent more, and we must evolve, too. For the sake of our children, the holiday season should be not only a celebration of life, but a spiritual awakening to all the ways we can open our hearts to each other, our community, and the world. Maybe you know this, and maybe you practice it. Good for you….now find a way to be even better at it.

Don’t look to me for guidance unless you want to hold my chocolate-y hand and do it together. My children have extensive wish lists posted all over the house, and Christmas morning here will certainly be a flurry of wrapping paper, batteries, and tears over broken Legos. But last night, with my mother-in-law visiting, we built a gingerbread house – one of those $7.99 prefab kits from the grocery store – while listening to holiday music, and the kids actually cooperated on the decorations. Then we snuggled on the couch to watch Rudolph, and I dissected all the reasons that Rudolph’s father, Donner, was an asshole and Santa was neurotic and judgmental. It was an excellent Christmas evening, practically free and stressless, and it infected my kids with a mysterious desire to hang out together.

The impetus for all this sanctimony is twofold: a devastating article about the Ebola orphans of Africa, and a single sentence whispered to me last week by my darling Diva, who is 13 years old: Mom, I know that Santa isn’t real. 

Part 2 of this tomorrow, or maybe the next day. Don’t pressure me.

10 responses to The spirit of Christmas, Part 1.

  1. Dan Hamilton says:

    This marks the second time in the last few days you have rescued me from terminal humbug.

    • tricia says:

      I’m glad I could help, old friend. xoxo and peace to you.

  2. Elaine says:

    Donner is Rudolph’s father? Did I miss this on Maury Povich?

    • tricia says:

      Elaine, you just need to watch Rudolph again. Don’t you remember Donner trying to cover up the nose with a nose cap? And Santa saying, “Donner, you should be ashamed of yourself!”

  3. Years ago I set boundaries for Christmas. I don’t send cards anymore. I contribute 5-10 dollars for a teachers gift and we don’t exchange gifts in my extended family. I spend a certain dollar amount on each child and my youngest -who is the most difficult child ever (really cute to look at though)
    makes a list and is told that Santa will bring some of his items but not all.
    Our extended family spends a wonderful Christmas Eve together and we each bring a dish to share. We don’t get out of pi’s on Christmas day. I am done with my shopping and I won’t be seen anywhere in a store except for groceries. It’s probably very boring to some but we have a very peaceful holiday. After 21 Years ( my oldest) I finally got it right : ) PEACE! FYI right now there are 2 holes in my wall from my son. I just stuffed a paper towel in them : 0

  4. Lida says:

    Last year I finally got the hole fixed my son punched in the wall maybe 15 years ago. I had to pay someone cause I didn’t know how and my husband’s a sentimentalist who wanted to keep it forever, along w the grubby handprints at knee-level along the walls…

  5. Tracy Miller says:

    I’m with Johnna. We bake cookies to take to friends and teachers; all teachers get a $10 gift card; I only send cards to people out of town and each one has a hand-written note because I actually enjoy writing out the cards and remembering friends who are no longer in my daily life (note that I don’t stress over the picture included – I just pick a decent one and upload it to a photo card site in October so I have the time to enjoy writing the cards out slowly); and my kids get not that much that they want, a few things that they need and, of course, a bunch of books. Our tree is beautiful–a mix of ornaments on my tree when I was growing up and many many ornaments handmade by the kids. Our outside decorations are minimal but sufficient and mostly, I’ll look forward to taking some time off while the kids are off school so that we can do some fun things without the hassle and pressure of homework/make dinner/get a bath/get your teeth brushed/get into bed. I really think you need to think of why you do the things you do for the holidays. Pick the things that are meaningful to YOU. You might think I’m nuts for ordering my cards in October, but for me, trying to slam a bunch of cards together without actually even giving one though to the person receiving it is not something I enjoy, so I don’t do that.

    So…want me to bring you some cookies?

    • tricia says:

      I want you to bring yourself. To my house. Soon. xoxo

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