Bah! Humbug!!
December 5, 2006 6:54 AM   Subscribe

ScroogeFilter: I am having a seriously hard time getting in the Christmas Spirit. Jolly

I don't want to hate Christmas but I think I do. But I don't want to! After a pretty rough year where I was anticipating moving closer to family, I find myself and my little family (husband, age 5 girl, age 3 boy and age 5 months boy) spending the holidays in a new (to us) house with absolutely no extended family.

Oh, and we're in Arizona which causes a lot of problems, including being 2500 miles from our families. I mention Arizona because going outside to sledride and make snow angels is not going to work to help me get in the Spirit.

So, I turn to you all. How can I get in the Christmas Spirit? Do you have certain traditions that you could share as this is our first Christmas together alone and we've not yet implemented any traditions?
posted by Sassyfras to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Kids are full of Christmas spirit. Make ornaments, cards for your family and friends, go caroling, and write your lists to Santa!
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2006

Maybe you and your immediate family can come up with a new tradition to start celebrating. Maybe incorporate Easter into Christmas, and do a "gift-hunt" in the morning, or do different things for a countdown?
I am not in the Christmas spirit one bit either so take these suggestions with a grain of salt! :)
I would suggest doing something fun with your kids to count down to the holiday - different art projects, making candy (my mom, sister and I always got those weird chocolate "coins" at bulk food stores, melted them down and mixed in peanuts, marshmallows, or dipped pretzel rods in the chocolate - that always reminds me of Christmas) - things like that. Start traditions with your kids so in the next few years as they get a little older you can all feel a bit of the Christmas spirit!
Also, is video-conferencing an option for you? Or a web-cam? That way you can still maybe see your extended family on Christmas?
posted by slyboots421 at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2006

Wow, I guess I missed the end of your post. Good thing we're on the same wavelength, right? :)
posted by slyboots421 at 7:16 AM on December 5, 2006

I read once about a family who didn't really give presents to each other at Christmas (maybe little ones). Instead, they would give something or do something nice for people less fortunate. The acts would be written on cards and hung on the tree. Come Christmas Day, the whole family would crowd around to open the cards and see what everyone had done. There was always one 'big gift' like sending a huge group of poor children to a hockey game.

It always feels good to help others and it's nice to implement traditions to teach children this when they're young.
posted by pinksoftsoap at 7:29 AM on December 5, 2006

Best answer: Oh boy, do I ever sympathize. I've had the same problem (though not quite for the same reasons) for the last few years, but this year I finally feel like I might be getting my Christmas groove back. Some thoughts that might help:

1. Regarding warm weather Christmases: Since we got married, my husband and I alternate between Hawaii (his family) and Georgia (my family) for Christmas. The first few Hawaii christmases were VERY tough for me, from a Christmas spirit perspective (admittedly not so tough from an oh-gee-I'm-in-Hawaii perspective). I decided to actively seek out warm weather-specific and Hawaii-specific Christmasy things to help me make the mental leap to "warm = Christmas." For example, Christmas music with a bit of a warm-weather vibe (e.g. hawaiian artists, Beach Boys, Chris Isaak or Jimmy Buffett). Or the palm tree next to the higway that somebody covers in christmas lights (just like in the Corona commercial). Arizona must have something going on for Christmas (perhaps some Arizona MeFites can chime in). Seek it out. Go overboard in your quest for Christmas stimuli and it will help.

2. Regarding new traditions -- try to see this as an incredible opportunity to create exactly the Christmas you want for your children. You have a blank slate. What have you always wanted your children to do/see on Christmas? Look for activities where you do things together, because that's what they will remember later on. Do you bake? Make christmas cookies and let the kids help you decorate (these can double as the gifts you send to your extended family). If you don't bake, buy graham crackers, icing, and candy and make "gingerbread" houses. Musically inclined? Do a christmas eve singalong. Tech-savvy? Have the kids "help" you make iMovies, photo collages, or even Christmas mix CDs to send to the extended family. When they get a little older, you might consider starting a tradition of volunteering (food bank, toy drives, etc.). So many possibilities...

3. General thoughts: Being away from family at Christmas is hard emotionally, but it's also hard logistically -- presents to ship, etc. Accept that there's going to be some extra stress because of this, and do what you can to mitigate. Look for areas to reduce stress and effort. This goes back to the blank slate thing -- don't do things just because you think you ought to (e.g. Christmas dinner -- if you're cooking a ham, a turkey, and a duck just because that's what your mom did, take a step back... do you actually like ham, turkey, AND duck? what about a honeybaked ham instead? or no duck? Or chuck it all and have LOBSTER!). Again, use this situation to suss out what REALLY matters to you about Christmas, and focus on that.

Lastly, give it time. Be patient with yourself... there's usually a guilt element present in this particular brand of Scrooginess that only compounds the problem. So let it go, and do the best you can.

I've rambled far too long. My apologies. Good luck.
posted by somanyamys at 7:49 AM on December 5, 2006

Wow- you seem awful lucky to me. Together alone? You are together together.
My family never was into Christmas and for the past 10 years (since almost all of my family extended family) moved to Florida it has been just me. I had friends that invite me over to spend Christmas with THEIR family but that just seemed like crashing.
Since my family didnt have any traditions really I get ALL excited about them

I would rent Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer (or scrooged, miracle on 34th, etc) and watch it together every year.
Make a gingerbread house together.
Make each of you make a new ornament every year.
Take Christmas card photos each year and save in a little photo book and with all of the Christmas photos from that year.
If there is a civic center around all go together on a certain day when there is public skating.
Have the kids pick out a toy at a toystore for toys for tots or similar program.
Get in your pajamas and drive around town looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas day go to a movie.
Before they go to bed on Christmas eve read a fav book. It could be a christmas book or Swiss Family Robinson.
Pick a fav breakfast food and have it every Christmas morning - baked french toast or cranberry pancakes.
Write the kids (and hubby) a christmas note every year and tell them how much you love them and why you appreciate them.
Make a holiday CD every year and date it. Then you'll have a collection you can split up between the kids.
Have a traditional call (on the computer with the eb cam to a close family member so the kids can speak to them).
Have a Christmas day hike (Thats what I did when i was alone for the holidays).
Oh and scents.
Get a real tree and have Christmasy candles or potpourri going.
posted by beccaj at 7:58 AM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't know where you are in AZ, but many people drive up to Flagstaff or other northern areas to go play in the snow. It's a fun day trip and can trigger some of those fun feelings from winters back east.

Also, the Phoenix Zoo has a Zoolights exhibit in the evenings, where the whole zoo is blanketed in Christmas lights. Inexpensive, and totally fun for the kids.
posted by hermitosis at 8:08 AM on December 5, 2006

This is the first year in a long time I've felt particularly Christmasy, and I finally realized it's because I'm back in school and there's that end-of-the-semester holiday buzz all around me. I'm not sure if your kids are old enough to be in school, but maybe volunteering at their school or preschool program or another school if you have time? Cut-out snowflakes pasted on windows tend to put me in the holiday spirit pretty quickly.
posted by occhiblu at 8:13 AM on December 5, 2006

hang out in a department store for about 3 hours - the constant christmas music and repitition of songs will get you into the spirit very quickly. This is mostly a result of a safety mechanism, because it's either insanity or a jolly smile and christmas cheer (sarcasm font).
posted by chupwalla at 8:56 AM on December 5, 2006

One tradition my family has is our stockings on christmas morning. "Santa" fills up these giant knitted stockings (one with each kids name!) with whatever (typical stocking stuffers, or snacks) and we got to open those first thing on christmas morning. If our parents were still in bed, we knew that our stockings were the only thing we could touch until everyone was awake.

My older brother took his with him and now his kids have them too. My sister and I left ours at our parents house and they still get filled up every year and are waiting for us! For a family that is not very religious and doesn't have many holiday "traditions", I still look forward to this one.
posted by utsutsu at 9:05 AM on December 5, 2006

I find that celebrating Advent helps me get ready for Christmas gradually. I light advent candles with dinner each night, and with kids I might say a prayer or sing a Christmas song or talk about one aspect of Christmas (everyone chime in on what they think). I also set up my crèche and move the three wise men and Mary and Joseph a little bit each day in their paths around the house to get to the stable. (Another thing your kids will love doing.)

I also think that when I have the energy to make presents and holiday goodies I get more excited about it all than when I just buy things for people. You could also have a craft project each weekend for the kids -- paper chains one week, Christmas cards another, and so on (everyone else had good ideas there). With a five month old, though, you may not have the energy to do those things -- I know that with my six week old, many Christmas things will be skipped this year. So concentrate on what would be most meaningful for you and your family.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:19 PM on December 5, 2006

One thing that can keep me, or my family, or whoever from getting in the Spirit of things is thinking about the work involved. Find ways around the worky bits, so you can cut right to the fun parts. For example:

- Get a fake tree (no watering or disposal issues) so you can enjoy decorating it with the kids (child-safe ornaments only where they can reach, though; I still have nightmares about when my sister ate a glass one)

- Make sugar cookies from a mix. This gets you directly to the lick-the-spoon stage, and the cut-out-and-decorate stage - the two parts kids like best.

- Chocolate-filled Advent Calendars for Everyone!!!! For after dinner, of course. Counting down the days never tasted better.

- "Gingerbread" houses made of graham crackers instead. Also mentioned in a previous comment. The houses shouldn't be too difficult for you to make onto paper plates, then the kids can have fun decorating them with candy.

- Get a set of matching family stockings. Even just something simple with each person's name on them.

- Do all Christmas house decorating (ribbons on bannisters, lights, etc.) after the kids are all asleep, then tell them the elves came and put up the decorations. Sometimes creating Christmas magic is the best way to feel it.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2006

I made a gingerbread house with my son when he was pretty little. Candy (melted butterscoth) 'glass windows' and all. It got scorched in baking - the back of the house was too burnt to use and it was so Not Martha, but we iced it and lit it up with a candle inside. The next year I had no interest in repeating the effort until I heard my son tell someone about it and describe it as sooo beautiful in a hushed voice. So we made gingerbread houses every year. Children filter their memories. It doesn't have to be perfect; it has to be something you do together with joy.

Make paper chains to decorate, make cookies, sing carols. Get plain bulbs for the tree, and each child puts their name and birth year on it in glitter. Every year each child hangs 'their' ornament. Give each child an ornament every year, and tell a story about them as you hang their ornament. Advent calendars are great for building anticipation. My family has a favorite holiday album that signals Christmas to all of us. If you email me, I'll send you some holiday favorite tunes. Every year, on Christmas Eve, we read The Polar Express together, and I get teary every time I read It broke my heart to lose the bell.
posted by theora55 at 3:18 PM on December 5, 2006

Watch "It's a Wonderful Life" If that doesn't do it you are probably dead.
posted by spankbot at 3:22 PM on December 5, 2006

Try this : Online Advent Calendar

posted by philad at 4:42 PM on December 5, 2006

Mixed Nuts also does the trick for me but I notice a lot of people think it sucks. It might resonate with you as it takes place in another sunny climate - Venice Beach, California. Happy Holidays, BTW.
posted by philad at 4:51 PM on December 5, 2006

Like another poster mentioned, a day trip up to Prescott, Payson or Flagstaff to have fun and play in the snow. We always do this in the week before Xmas to get our fill of snow-time winter fun, but it's a relief to come back to the valley and the (somewhat) warmth.

You didn't say where you live in Arizona, but all I know are suggestions for Phoenix metro area. Also like the previous poster, there is ZooLights in Tempe, as well as Glendale Glitters and the xmas lights on Mill Ave. Most cities have their own special xmas light arrangements. In Ahwatukee (and I'm sure in other locations) you can take a horse-drawn hay ride through the mountains and neighborhoods to look at xmas lights. The Phoenix symphony has lots of xmas performances and some other cities have their own xmas music performances.
posted by lizjohn at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2006

Sedona has a Christmas festival of lights, in which a several block area is festooned with displays. Because it is an artist's community to some extent, the displays are really good. It takes a couple of hours to walk around.
posted by ハッカー at 7:10 PM on December 5, 2006

OK, I do hate Christmas. I hate it, have since I was a kid, I just hate it! To top it off I'm stuck in Beijing this Christmas which means that the thing I hate the very most about the holiday is the one thing that I'm fricking surrounded by; the commercialism.

Now I'm rather atheistic as far as religion goes, but the part of the season I have been able to allow myself to enjoy has been family, charatable giving and peace. As China is a rather non-Christian uber-comecialistic society all they have is the BUYBUYBUY, the lights, Santa and the annoying, repetetive music.

So what has being cooped up in Beijing done for my Christmas spirit? Well, its actually made me really focus on those things I do like about it. I miss my family. I miss the big meals, the fireplace, the happy kids tearing into toys. The good stuff. Not having it has really made me miss it and I'm actually, in a sad, pathetic sort of way, starting to enjoy it, though it is (and because it is) so far away from me.

Maybe you should try and get away to a foreign, non-Christian country next year. Ansence (as well as absenth I hear) makes the heart fonder, right?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:58 PM on December 5, 2006

As for traditions, one that I love from my family is Tree-Trimming Day, when we make all kinds of delicious "small food" - crudite platters and dips, finger sandwiches, pates, smoked oysters, Swedish meatballs (eat with toothpicks!!) - deviled eggs, etc., set them all out buffet-style, and trim the tree while listening to carols and munching the yummies. Absolutely. No. Television.

Christmas Eve, we always have Fondue! We open one present each, play games and eat fondue! If parents pick which present kids open, they might include fun games everyone can play together!

Cookie Day! Spend the whole day making and decorating Christmas cookies with the kids. To supercharge it, if you are able, and feel comfortable letting them stay home from school for one day to do this, a free day out of school to build cookies is a joy beyond all joys! :)
posted by taz at 4:25 AM on December 6, 2006

All I can suggest is this from my personal experience. Everything that is written about is completely true, and to me it is the real sprit of xmas.

Please excuse the poor writing style, as I am a scientist and am barely able to communicate emotion to the outside world.

posted by koolkat at 5:25 PM on December 6, 2006

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