Wish List Mayhem - When us Gen Xer’s were young, we crafted hand-written Christmas lists, crossed our fingers and hoped Aunt Ruth would show up with a Barbie instead of her her timeless tradition of buying books and cardigans. There were no itemized digital lists with specific model numbers and sharable links. The Amazon wish list is the Type-A shopper’s dream. Simply upload every last gift request for each kid, share through Gmail or Facebook and there you have it: the most efficient way to guarantee loved ones stick with the plan. The problem is when certain relatives transmute this system into more of a Schindler’s list than a wish list. One year I decided to use my creativity and commit the unthinkable crime of surprising my niece with concert tickets instead of an ascribed wish list item. I didn’t make that mistake twice. Apparently Madeesa tickets to not make up for the fact that I had apparently shirked my wish list commitment, thwarting my sister’s entire gift giving strategy. “I would have told mom not to get the art kit, if I knew you weren’t getting her the glitter gun!” Plus, when certain technologically-challenged relatives participate in group Amazon list buying, without checking off their purchased item, some unfortunate nephew gets two Hulk busters for Christmas. I’m lookin’ at you, Nana.
One Grab Bag Away From Bankruptcy - Christmas parties, swaps, gift-giving and card sending is enough chaos for the average American. But when you have more than one school-aged child, holiday celebrations becomes borderline ludicrous. Three individual teacher gifts, holiday parties requiring Christmas – themed snacks and class grab bag gifts-all on different days, make things oh so magical. My second grader was five minutes away from boarding the bus in reindeer jammies ‘til I realized “wear your Christmas PJ’s to school” day was tomorrow. Even without school ridiculousness, it’s too much. Work grab bags, gifts for assistants, gifts for clients, Yankee swaps, family grab bags with a $20 limit I never honor (thrift it up, people!) gifts for childless friends who won’t stop buying you gifts against your will, gifts for the cat because your toddler had a meltdown last year, realizing Patches got nada for Christmas. It really never ends. Even for us serial re-gifters, this giving madness poses quite a quandary. You haven’t felt the spirit of Christmas until re-gifting fudge your co-worker made the error of bestowing, three weeks into your Paleo Diet. Over to you, second grade teacher.
Christmas Shopping….a Procrastinator’s Nemesis - Christmas - where a procrastinator shines the brightest all year. While responsible consumers can be found sipping eggnog and wrapping that last present mid-December, the last minute crowd can be found cursing at their laptops as they pay $100 to expedite Legos across the country that would have been free Amazon Prime goodness if ordered last week with the rest of society. But no, not us last-minute mavens. 12/25 somehow accosts our calendars like tax day each year, but instead of pounding on H & R Block’s doors at 7 p.m. April 14, we’re in line at Toys R Us after racing past a shopper in a wheelchair to grab the last Pillow Pal. In our younger days this kind of last minute, adrenaline-fueled nonsense seemed acceptable, but when you’re in line at Kohl’s at 11 p.m. on Dec. 23, texting family members “What kind of bedding did mom want?” it’s just sad.
Christmas Photo Cards - Like most of life’s best simplicities, family Christmas cards have morphed from the hand-written cards to high fashion family photo shoots worthy of a Vogue insert. Come November, at the peak of our fall foliage, mothers across cast their senses to the wind and go schlepping through pastures and hillsides to capture candid shots of our kids frolicking through authentic sunlight. The days of the family forcing group smiles in front of the tree are long over. I have an especially psychotic cousin who paid extra for a photographer to climb the side of a mountain and capture her children releasing Christmas-colored balloons in the air. I hired a photographer for a Christmas shoot once, and my youngest decided he was against cameras. $200 and two hours later, I had one candid shot of my boys awkwardly staring at a pointsetta.
Fighting over Family Gatherings - Perhaps one of the ugliest faces of the holidays can be seen when couples battle it out over which family members they’ll spend the greater portions of Christmas with. The glory of our savior’s birth shines bright… until refusing trek it to the in-laws one second before 4 p.m. on Christmas day. Screaming “No way, we see your parents ALL the time!” doesn’t exactly put the Christ back in Christmas. We somehow map ourselves to four different sets of grandparents within 12 hours of Christmas goodness, but sometimes it feels more like a duty than a delight.
But despite all the headaches, expenditures and familial challenges the season brings, there’s no doubt Christmas is still the most heart-warming, magical time of the year, especially when focusing on the meaning, and the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Merry Christmas, and bring it on, Amazon.