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Martha Stewart or Mister Scrooge? Managing Holiday Expectations

It seems like Pinterest and consumerism have driven holidays to crazy extremes! Christmas décor is out in stores before Halloween is even over (I think this year it was Oct 24th or so). The pressure to decorate, host the perfect party, find the perfect costume and make it all look amazing and effortless is becoming the new ‘norm’. Why? Are you a Martha Stewart of the holiday season or a Mister Scrooge?

Spoiler- overall I will say that I lean away from being a Martha Stewart. My home is not decorated seasonally and is pretty minimal (I do have a toddler and a dog- I'm not glutton for that much chaos!) and I lean away from having a lot of ‘stuff’ out; I use mostly photos to decorate. I try to find a balance in between.

Being that its November I’ll touch on the fall/winter biggies- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Valentines Day. Another post I’ll do the spring/summer holidays and birthdays.

Halloween: Growing up we did costumes and trick or treating, carving pumpkins and that was about it. I don't remember (or recall after looking at family photo albums) a large emphasis on decorations, and we strayed away from dead things (there was no big zombie trend growing up). I do remember the leaf pumpkins. I loved raking leaves and filling the pumpkin garbage bags up with them!

Our costumes growing up were almost always handmade or made from things around the house. My earliest remembrance of a costume is my all time favorite costume- a yellow crayon when I was 3 years old. My mom made my costume out of yellow felt and I had a cone hat for the point. I wore it 2 years in a row. As a 2 year old I was a clown with my dad- we had matching costumes that I think someone in the family had made- classic and not super cheesy. After that there was a cat and a clown. One year my dad and I went to a neighborhood party as Tool Time- he was Tim Taylor and I was Al Borland lol. Even in college I did costumes that could be made from a wardrobe I already had- in grad school a group of us took a play off the Desperate Housewives and were the Desperate Housewives of Bloomington- to include a cougar, a soccer mom, a business woman and her affair with a young intern and of course our producer. My goals for Halloween for my children: I want to continue to focus on homemade costumes. I cannot stand the fake looking costumes. So far we have been a duck hunter in a tree stand; Captain America (thanks pajamas) and this year he was a builder/construction worker. I want costumes kids are interested in (I wont say no to a costume if their heart is set on it) but I also want to encourage creativity.

I want to avoid the candy craze! We don't eat typical candy handed out at Halloween so we will either re-give the candy we get or donate it to others.

Decorations- The husband is more into decorations than I am. I’m good with a few pumpkins and carving a pumpkin each year- he likes the lights; I am going to try keep the decorations to what we have now. Maybe we can bring back leaf pumpkins if we have enough big trees in our yards at the time.

Thanksgiving: Growing up Thanksgiving was kind of the ‘meh’ holiday. My dad worked on a turkey farm growing up and I can never recall a turkey being made in my house. We usually stuck to close family (us and my mom’s parents) and did a nice meal but not traditional. We’ve had pizza, tacos, spaghetti, steak, roast and ham for dinner before. Goals for Thanksgiving for my children: I want the focus to be on thankfulness and sharing time with people who matter to us- whether it be friends or family. The last 3 years we’ve been able to go to Connecticut and see Stephen’s brother and his family. His wife is a great cook, always trying a new sweet potato recipe. I am bummed we aren’t close enough to continue that tradition this year.

As my children get older I want to emphasize why Thanksgiving exists- and explain the importance of the Native Americans on our country’s existence. I want to help avoid the cultural appropriation of the Native Americans and whitewashing of history.

Christmas- the biggie. Growing up we always had good Christmases but somewhere along the way we grew up and traditions got lost in the shuffle of a busy life and adult kids being far away. We always celebrated with our immediate family- sometimes with the extended family (although not much that I remember as an older child).

We always had a tree, which was fake, but decorated with ornaments collected over the years. We would do some lights outside (nothing crazy to be YouTube worthy and dependent on the Midwestern weather that year) and would get stockings Christmas morning before opening our presents- usually in pajamas- before the grandparents came over for Christmas dinner and presents.

We visited Santa at the mall when we were young believers. Santa lives in our hearts and would bring us presents until we knew his elves- and then Santa would sometimes still bring us a big surprise present. Santa also visited the grandparents house and brought presents over. Santa was good to us growing up without spoiling us. I think my parents did a good job letting under the tree be full but a good balance of books, wants, needs, and clothes. I remember after birthdays (which are in the summer) if we wanted a big item we had to save and do chores or put it on our Christmas list.

I would say growing up my mom has two traditions- one tradition that will always hold true is books- every birthday and every Christmas you get a book. The Christmas tradition is ornaments- every year we get a new ornament for our collection- she has gotten us ornaments since we were born. My dad doesn't really do any special traditions- he does receive his yearly holiday cookies from his mom- anise spice cookies, a German cookie known as a pfeffernusse.

As we got older Christmas lost some of the magic. We didn't have a list of toys/things we were trying to get. We aren’t church goers so that aspect of Christmas isn’t huge for us, neither is caroling for that matter. Now it seems like Christmas is more of a chore than fun- what to get someone for a gift- making sure its even spending; not leaving people out.

Goals for Christmas for my children: I want to capture the spirit of the holiday. I want to have some tradition that is magical even as they get older. I'm not sure what this is yet but I’m looking for it. I want to also try and have snow as much as possible (or the potential for snow) at Christmas time. I want to decorate but not crazy- simple lights and a tree with some stockings on the wall/mantel (thanks to moving you need to be creative)

Gifts- I hope that in a world of consumerism I can do my part to not raise a consumerist. I think that avoiding ‘real’ television and commercials helps; but my goal is to do presents that fall into 5 categories: something to you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read; and Santa. I think the focus should be on the fact that they are getting something and don't need 100 presents. I also want to incorporate a donation as they get older- whether it be donating old toys/clothes or making “hobo bags” (there was this one time in Utah we went ‘hobo hunting’ and handed out bags of staples to homeless individuals in the city). I want it to be about giving, not giving.

New Years- Growing up new years was not a huge celebration. We would watch the ball drop with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and then go to bed. I don't remember ever doing a new years party or anything crazy. Let’s be real about New Years for a moment- it is just an excuse to pay 300x what you would normally pay for food/drinks/activity any other time.

For my children’s New Years: skip the hype- watch the ball drop; call it a night. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve just isn’t the same anymore and who really wants to stay up that late?

Valentines Day: Growing up Valentines Day was pretty low key- you had a small party at school- which was making a craft to hold your cards, doing cards for your classmates and maybe getting a little bit of candy. My parents would give us a card and maybe a candy/flower. We didn't decorate for the holiday and I don't remember my parents going out for a big date night.

For my children’s Valentines Day- holy cow have valentines stepped it up a notch! Kids are ‘dating’ at younger ages which means more effort is put into valentines and candy is expected. Valentines gifts are now an expectation too? I want to teach my children about the history of Valentines day- and try to bring it back to its roots. Homemade cards and no outlandish candies for ‘boyfriends/girlfriends’

The husband and I treat Valentines Day much like New Years- you just pay more because it's a holiday.

Overall: I already said I lean away from Martha Stewart. I want to avoid being Mister Scrooge but I cannot buy into the consumerism and Pinterest-ness of the holidays! I want to educate myself and my children on the history and originating traditions of holidays; honoring the sacredness of history and what the holiday’s stand for. For example- Halloween- All Hallows Eve/Samhain festival- honoring the end of harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year; honoring our ancestors. I think the most important thing to remember about holidays- they aren’t an excuse/reason to show people you care about them, remember them, are thankful for them, love them. You need to do those things every day.

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