Sunday, December 11, 2011

Women, Let's Ditch the Duties, Enjoy the Season

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la!

But you can’t deck those halls until they are squeaky clean. As every red-blooded American woman knows, we cannot decorate for Christmas until the whole house is clean. And when I say clean, I mean pull-the-sofa-out-from-the-walls-wash-the-woodwork-dust-and-polish-the-furniture-shampoo-the carpets-unbug-the-light-fixtures-strip-the-floor-wax-and-rewax clean.

Then we can decorate.

The decorating must create the perfect atmosphere. If it does not transform our home into a haven of Christmas spirit, then we must shop for more and better decorations. Another miniature tree, perhaps? More fake holly? An LED-lit garland for the banister? Maybe an inflatable snowman for the front lawn? Will these impart the peace we seek?

Back in the day, the one thing I bought every year was a new mistletoe. In my homes growing up, the mistletoe hung from the arch between the living and dining rooms, the spot where two people are likely to come into coincidental proximity. It could not be a fake mistletoe, but a fresh one.

The decorating is like the gun that releases the racers. Then we women bake cookies, hundreds of cookies, beautiful perfect cookies. We make a gift list of all the people for whom we must shop. Then we wade through crowded department stores to find the perfect gifts for our family members, friends, co-workers, the mailman … And the cards, we women must buy the cards and the stamps and spend peaceful moments writing personal notes to each person on our list. Of course, there are many trips to the grocery store, to shop for baking ingredients, egg nog and cider, cheeses and crackers, other special foods and Christmas dinner, of course, oh, and the Christmas Eve meal, too. A stop at the liquor store for some rum.

‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la!

If we’re involved in the church program we have rehearsals for the concert or play and then the event itself. Cross that off the list. We attend the company party, the neighborhood party, the parade, the family get-together, the community concert, church services.

Going to get the tree is an event in itself. The tree farm has so many shapes and sizes to choose from. The anticipation of decorating it always conjures images of carols playing softly, the room lit by the tree lights, a bit of spiked egg nog and a great deal of affection and joy. In reality, the tree must be trimmed to fit the room, it’s got gaps so we turn and turn it to its good side and by that time tempers are a bit short and if you feel that way, why don’t you just decorate it yourself!

Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la!

What should we wear to these parties and concerts? We women must look perfect, elegant, festive! Something red, of course. And the children need Christmas clothes, too, dresses for the girls and red or green sweaters for the boys. Not to mention the special Christmas pajamas and socks.

And how about wrapping gifts? My stepmother was the Queen of Wrapping. She wrapped gifts perfectly, decorated with ribbons and bows, no two done the same. What an example to follow!

Sing the ancient yuletide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la!

My question is, how many of these activities do we actually enjoy?

I like baking with my kids and grandkids, not only for the camaraderie, but because they take most of the cookies home.

I like decorating, but I don’t get frantic about it. If my home is not transformed into Christmas Wonderland, then it’s not transformed.

I like sending cards. It’s the only time I keep in touch with some people, aside from Facebook, which doesn’t count. A card is tangible, real.

While I hate shopping, I love making gifts, whether it’s sewing a robe for a little boy or framing family photos.

Honestly? I dislike children’s Christmas programs. While others are melting at the cherubs’ collective sweetness, I’m tapping my foot, wishing I was elsewhere. (Of course, if it’s my kids or grandkids, it gives me reason to stay.) But if there is a hell, it’s one long children’s Christmas program.

There is a better way to celebrate Christmas, women. It means leaving behind what we think is expected of us and doing what we truly enjoy. For most of us, that means spending time with loved ones.

That’s the list I’m following.

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