It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

December is here, which means it’s time for familiar holiday traditions—like “stress” and “guilt.”

However, if the holiday season really was stress-and-guilt-free, my guess is that mid-January we’d find ourselves asking, “Did we even celebrate Christmas?”

Of course, it’s possible everything would feel more normal as soon as we got our credit card bill in the mail or discovered those holiday pounds on our bathroom scales.

The weird thing is that the twins, “stress and guilt,” tend to arrive hand in hand, even though they come from different sources. We feel stressed because we’re doing too much, and guilty because we think we’re not doing enough. You’d think they would somehow cancel each other out, like drinking Diet Coke with pepperoni pizza, or adding fat-free ice cream to pecan pie.

Another favorite tradition is holiday baking. One of my favorites is baking Christmas cookies from an old family recipe. My other tradition is to lose the recipe. To date, my mother has given me the recipe at least nine times!

In theory, I think traditions are a great idea. There’s nothing I’d love better than to lovingly craft a Martha Stewart Christmas for my family, complete with beloved traditions that seem to glow with a rich patina bestowed by the passage of time. In reality, things are a bit more complicated.

Traditions require a lot of planning (“Let me check my calendar”), and props (“Has anybody seen the box with Christmas decorations?”), and cooperation from family members, (“What do you mean you have a date with Jason on the night of our Annual Christmas Caroling Extravaganza!?!”).

Despite all of the holiday mayhem and good intentions, I try to remind myself that holiday traditions are here to serve me and my loved ones, not the other way around. I never want to compromise peace of mind or harmony in relationships for any given tradition.

Relationships, after all are more important than ritual.

This is great news. Getting my priorities straight certainly relieves a lot of the pressure I tend to put on myself during the holidays. In fact, in honor of my new commitment of “relationships over ritual,” I think I’ll call someone I care about for no other reason than to say hello.

I think I’ll call my mother. I’m going to a Christmas potluck this weekend, and I’ve been asked to bring the cookies.

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