Help Me Feel Better About Not Wanting To "Go All Out" With The Christmas Decorating.
December 2, 2007 3:07 AM   Subscribe

I feel guilty for not wanting to really "go all out" with Christmas decorating this year. I'll do the tree, of course, but every year I feel like doing less and less in terms of the "whole shebang"... My kids are basically "grown up" (ages 19 and 15) but I feel like I'll be letting them down if I do less than what's expected. The thought of totally getting into the decorating this year is exhausting. Can any other Mefites relate to this? And, if so, how did you deal with it?
posted by amyms to Human Relations (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you asked them how they feel about the whole shebang? I know that when I was a kid, I got over the whole shebang pretty early. You might be surprised to find out that your kids might want nothing more than an undecorated tree and a few strands of tacky blinky lights. Ask them!
posted by barnacles at 3:11 AM on December 2, 2007

As soon as I found out Santa isn't real, the whole shebang lost its luster. By the age of 15, I really didn't care. Nothing will ever live up to the grandeur of Christmases past. Just gimme my presents and let's eat.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:18 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: barnacles, they (my kids) decorate the tree themselves (which they seem to really enjoy).... I've mentioned before about cutting down on the other decorating and they're "okay" with it, but with an "awww" component. I guess my guilt is more internalized than a result of their reactions.
posted by amyms at 3:18 AM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: amyms, sounds like a great time (and excuse) to transfer the primary decorating duties to the kids, then! "You're old enough to decide how the decorating should be done; have at it kids! Mom's going to just sit here with some wine and direct things." In a few years they'll be in their own places and doing all their own decorating, couch it in terms of being a preparatory experience for their future.
posted by barnacles at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I lost the "Christmas spirit" at about 7, when my mom made it abundantly clear that it was a Big Fuss and a Huge Stress to go all out at Christmas. It made her tired and grumpy, and we all had to be on best behaviour constantly because mom was so tired. It ruined the holidays for us. However, your kids are 15 and 19, not 5 and 9. They'll get over it, I'm sure.

Perhaps, if it does really bother them to not have decorations extra to the tree, they could put them up themselves? Or help out in some other way - preparing food or something? They're old enough to realise that it can be a lot of hard work, and maybe that will help them appreciate it a bit more?
posted by Solomon at 3:34 AM on December 2, 2007

Response by poster: Good suggestions, barnacles and Solomon... My daughter (the 19 year old) lived on her own with her boyfriend for almost all of 2007, and just recently moved back home to "take a break" from him, so she basically considers herself an "independent woman" lol... I'll let her and her brother (the 15 year old) decide on the decorations this year. I'm sure I'll still feel guilty (that's pretty much de rigueur for moms, I think) but at least I can relax.
posted by amyms at 3:41 AM on December 2, 2007

What about doing some cool family-togetherness thing after the holiday, say in January, when everything's back to normal? Maybe a weekend road trip somewhere cool and easy to get to (say, less than 4 hours one way)?

There wouldn't be any wider societal expectations of what whatever you do has to be, your kids would enjoy the break from the mundane, and you'd all get out of the house.
posted by mdonley at 4:53 AM on December 2, 2007

My mom effectively changed what "all-out" meant to reflect her children's adult personalities: my brother's a chef, so food traditions/innovations have become increasingly important; I'm an artist (well, an art historian, but apparently for her that's similar enough), so we've done family art projects; my sister/brother/father are all musically gifted, so that's a big part of our holidays; etc.

It isn't decorating, per se, but it's actually much more in line with what I generally think of as the "holiday spirit."
posted by obliquicity at 5:46 AM on December 2, 2007

My advice would be...

Just don't do it.

There is no law that says you HAVE to do anything at Christmas. There really is NO compulsion to do a single element of it.

Think about this - What would Jesus do...?
posted by pettins at 5:55 AM on December 2, 2007

i come from a mixed religious background, so we always have our big family shebang at thanksgiving, which is something we all celebrate. my mom began to offload the cooking and decorating obligations to us when we were in our late teens. as a result, the holiday is a lot more low-key and, actually, a lot more enjoyable. what matters is that we're together, eating good food, not that there are ten papier-mache turkeys hanging from the ceiling.

let it go. i think your kids will miss it less than you think. or rather, they will enjoy having you relaxed and happy more than they will mourn the loss of the tinsel.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:19 AM on December 2, 2007

You don't have to go all out. Doing a couple candle arrangements with some greenery will be festive and simple. A string of white lights someplace easy like a door frame along with the christmas cards you get in the mail decorating the same door jamb would be festive and easy. Try and maintain the spirit of the holidays without all the extras. The real spirit of the holidays is the people involved, not the decorations. I agree with the posts above indicating a less stressed out mom might be what the kids really want instead of a lot of decorations. Enjoy the season.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:55 AM on December 2, 2007

Best answer: Due to financial circumstances, when I was 13 or so my mother told my siblings and I that Christmas wasn't going to be a Big Deal anymore and that if we wanted the tree up and decorated, and if we wanted to exchange presents, we needed to step up and get involved. Not writing out the entire Toys R Us catalog on a sheet of paper and handing it over to mom.

I took over a big part of the stocking duty, particularly the one for my mom (which previously she hadn't had). We bought each other and/or made smaller gifts and would get one bigger group present from Mom (usually some sort of video game). If we wanted a christmas dinner, we had to help plan it and cook it (one year we had tacos as a result, it was awesome). We started spending the day in each other's company, having coffee and bagels in our pajamas, just chilling out instead of having a present-opening gorgefest. It was the one thing that helped me shift my idea of the holiday into something non-commercial, and I'm glad it happened early because otherwise I might have just quit christmas altogether as an adult.
posted by SassHat at 7:26 AM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I totally hear you, while it seems fairly early in the Christmas season, in the past I've spent the weekend after Thanksgiving dragging out the decorations and putting up the (artificial) tree and decorating. I know my husband and his son enjoy the finished product, but I have to beg to get any help at it. And I end up frustrated and pissed. It does end up being beautiful, and a couple of days later I enjoy it too. But I'm not really feeling like doing a darned thing this year so far. So I may wait until someone finally asks when I'm going to get everything done and then point to the storage closet and say, "Have at it."
posted by Jazz Hands at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2007

Definitely involve the kids. Another thing to consider is that you could always, say, set up the lights, then when done just detach from the plug, wind the cord up, and maybe twistie the plug in a plastic baggie and tie it somewhere so it doesn't go anywhere. Then, next year, all you have to do is let the cord out of the baggie and plug it in to the extension cord. I'm pretty sure you can just keep the lights attachd to the house year-round.

Also, I'm not going to into further details, but there are some people who go to Chinese restaurants every Christmas. Very, very traditional.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2007

Decorate, but simplify: put just white lights on the tree (no ornaments). Or maybe add just one color of ornament, like gold balls. Throw a length of evergreen on the mantel, or on the dining table, and add a couple of candles. In other words, you get the nice piney smells of Christmas without going all out. Candles and white lights are enough! If you need more, throw in a pretty amaryllis or two.

And keep simplifying with the rest of it: make one kind of cookie, not six. Use kraft paper or white butcher paper for wrapping, and one color of ribbon -- a single color harmonizes all your gifts and looks stylish, not lazy.

And stop giving gifts to anyone outside of your own family - announce that you're baking cookies (one kind, see above) for all your friends. Or whatever your specialty is -- your great-grandmother's coffee cake? Ye Merry Olde Toll House cookies? Just be fine with it. Believe me, everyone will heave a sigh of relief.
posted by mdiskin at 10:29 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

When my brothers and I were kids, my mom did the whole festive shebang. As we got older (and her life got harder and more stressful) we dealt with it my developing a whole new, way more laid back sort of shebang. She still puts up the tree (but switched to a pre-lit artificial one) but if any of decorating gets done it's if me or one of the bros wants to. We don't really bother with gifts (expect for maybe a wee bit of shopping together and a small something to open Christmas morning). Now that we're all basically adults (26 for my fiance and I, 22 and 17 for the little bros) we roll out of bed after 10:00 and have some coffee, then open our one little thing. By 11:30, we're drinking mimosas in our pajamas. We snack and drink and watch bad movies, and by 3:00 or 4:00, everyone wants a nap. At night, I make a bit pot of soup and then we drink a little more.

It couldn't be more low key, but it's become a tradition we all really look forward to, particularly as we've moved away. It's relaxed and fun, and feels even more Christmasy, really, since it's just family and food and no unnecessary, materialistic to-do.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2007

Ask them if they'd rather contribute money to a cause of their choosing instead of a shebang. I was always frustrated at that age because I wanted to give to charity but really couldn't afford it. Make that your gift to them.
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2007

We stopped bothering with a tree (which was really the extent of our decorations anyway) when I was about..17? Didn't miss it. This year we're not even doing presents--just chocolate and important food and wine and good books--I'm more excited for it than I've been in a few years. Mmm.
posted by stray at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2007

Just to give another perspective than the one that seems to prevail in this thread (although I certainly see their point), I'm 18 and I love Christmas and Christmas decorations. For me, though, it's more about tradition and seeing all the familiar things I associate with happy Christmassy feelings. For instance, the nutcrackers my mother collects, the lights, the decorations that belonged to my grandmother... I'd miss them. On the other hand, there are certainly aspects of the decorating I wouldn't miss. Maybe try putting out just a few things (maybe the things you like the best) and sounding out your kids? If their reaction is "You didn't put up the x? I didn't even notice" you're good. If they want more, tell them they can do it themselves :).
posted by MadamM at 2:06 PM on December 2, 2007

I moved out of home when I got married, at age 20. i'm now 26, and I'm sure that one of these years, I'll manage to acquire a tree and some decoations. Probably, anyway.

I love going to Midnight Mass with my family, going home for a finger or two of scotch afterwards, opening gifts, then going home with the dawn, and spending some quality time with my husband. Our family is very, very relaxed when it comes to Christmas - we don't do big dinners or the like, because it's too much fuss on a 40C day.
posted by ysabet at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2007

I'm 21 and I still love Christmas. For me, part of the fun is putting on Christmas music and decorating the house myself. If your children feel strongly enough that they want to make a big deal out of Christmas then decorating is something they'll probably want to do themselves. If they don't feel strongly enough to want to decorate the house themselves then chances are they aren't going to be too disappointed if you don't do it. Either way you don't need to feel guilty.
posted by Laura_J at 3:33 PM on December 2, 2007

Perhaps you could take a break from it. No tree, maybe stockings or something, maybe a very small, pre-lit, fake tree. I got my mom a wire tree substitute to hold her most favorite ornaments and it was a big hit - easy to set up, easy to put away. Or declare it a homemade Christmas, and ask the kids to make paper chains for the doorways.

I went quite low-key for a few years, and for various reasons won't be doing a tree this year, but I expect I'll do a lot more next year, as I'll be in a new place.

It's no fun if Christmas owns you.
posted by theora55 at 4:05 PM on December 2, 2007

By 15 I was responsible for all of the Christmas decorating, except for getting the undecorated tree up and level. I just did simple decorations and lights on the tree, stockings, a table centerpiece and perhaps something on the front door. I'm sure your 15 and 19 year old can manage to do this if they want the house decorated. If no one wants decorations, skip it.
posted by yohko at 4:11 PM on December 2, 2007

Recently a friend told me this story: One day before Christmas, when he was about eight years old, his father came home from work, obviously in a bad mood. He took his shotgun and went out behind the house. The four boys of the household heard two shots. The father came back in the house and announced there would be no more Christmas. "Why, Daddy, why?" they asked. "Santa Claus just committed suicide." They never had Christmas again. That year, when Christmas came, their neighbors celebrated the day. When asked why the neighbors had Christmas, the father answered, "They're Jews." My friend swears this is true.
posted by partner at 5:01 PM on December 2, 2007

In my family, after we hit pre-teen we had to do all the decorating, including assembling our increasingly dilapidated artificial tree if we wanted to have it (other than a few years where we convinced the parents to put up some roof lights because they certainly wouldn't let us do it ourselves). We've all gotten progressively lazier since and now I think the most we do is tie some ribbons to a doorknob.
posted by casarkos at 5:05 PM on December 2, 2007

My mom still goes all out and I love it. I don't live at home anymore (I'm 21) and my sister is 18, but I would be disappointed if we didn't have anything. I'd do them myself if I wasn't getting home the day before Christmas.
posted by piper4 at 7:17 PM on December 2, 2007

We ended up putting up a small 3ft pre-lit tree, the stockings, and I got out my santa figurines. In years past, my kid has been too little to NOT leave the figurines alone, but this year, she's no longer at that touchy stage, so figurines are safe. In past years, we've went all out, but decorating is exhausting, and my DH & I always end up in a huge fight.

This year, the kid ended up getting the ornaments out: ones she had made in kindergarten and first grade, and the tree is perfect with just those few little things!
posted by cass at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2007

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