Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Sure-Fire Way To Ruin Christmas

There’s a running joke in my family about my youngest brother Patrick. OK, there are several running jokes involving Patrick but this one has to do with how Patrick is always ruining Christmas. In point of fact, I don’t think Patrick has ever really ruined Christmas.
Patrick might go out with his friends on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. He might leave his shopping until the very last minute, but he’s not really one to set out to ruin Christmas.

But still the specter of a ruined Christmas always looms. This year might be a little dicey. My grandmother died in September of last year and she was the sun that held our familial solar system in orbit. Without her, we’re all a bit lost and sliding off course. It’s amazing how one strong and loving personality can keep all the petty squabbles and simmer feuds in check. Without Nana, we have to police ourselves and be nice to each other for niceness’ sake, not for Nana’s sake.

I hope my father won’t have to don a blue helmet and negotiate intra-familial strife, but if it does come to that, he can do it. He has his Reasonable Voice that can convince just about anyone that it’s best to let bygones be bygones.

So, Patrick’s not going to ruin Christmas and neither are any of the extended family, so, what is then the eponymous sure-fire way to ruin Christmas?

Through observation, I’m developing a theory that your own expectations of perfection are the sure-fire way to ruin Christmas. I’m talking about the pressure that some people put on getting everything right. The perfect gifts. A table setting out of Martha Stewart. A dinner out of Nigella Lawson. A house out of Home and Gardens.

I am grateful that, for the most part, Christmas at my parents’ house is not about perfection. My family is exceedingly laid back. My dad once remarked that if we wrung out the rug in the family room, we could probably eat for a week. And I don’t think he knows about the bottle of ketchup that met an ignominious end on that carpet when my brothers decided to test the shatterproof claim on the ketchup bottle. (Lesson learned: shatterproof and unbreakable are two entirely different thing.)

Our Christmas dinner might consist of leftovers from Christmas Eve or it might be a deli platter. When I was a kid, we often got up at 4 am so my mother could watch us open our presents before she went to work at a nursing home. The emphasis for Christmas at our house is on the togetherness, even if sometimes that togetherness is difficult.

If you find that you’re getting a bit stressed about your Christmas celebration, it might be time to take a step back and think about what’s stressing you. If it’s living up to some ideal, take a deep breath. It’s too damn much pressure to put on one little day. It’s silly, really. No one is going to remember if you forgot to take out the good china or if there’s a stain on the rug. No one cares if the turkey is a little dry or if the candles burn out over dinner.

Set the bar a bit lower. I say that as long as no one gets stabbed with a fork at the dinner table, then it’s a great Christmas.


At 23 December 2005 at 03:45, Blogger Mirty said...

Good advice. There is also a tendency to idealize childhood memories. Then the adult Christmases never live up to those childhood memories. Hope you have a great one!

At 24 December 2005 at 02:07, Blogger Career Guy said...

Oh wait. The stabbing. That was going to be the entertainment. Darn. I'll have to think of something else. See? You've ruined Christmas. :0

See you soon, sweetie!

At 30 December 2005 at 03:44, Blogger Stacey said...'d it go???

At 30 December 2005 at 17:11, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

That sounds like a few family gatherings I have seen.

At 5 January 2006 at 17:47, Blogger weese said...

amen to that.

At 5 January 2006 at 23:01, Blogger Lyss said...

My family is, as I like to call them, 'functioanlly dysfunctional'- this means that they may fight in front of guests but tend to be so charming that the guests eventually forget about it.


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