The Best Reason To Retire Is Christmas, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:41am

Here’s how I’m staying sane at Christmas.

  1. Made my peace with last-minute-ness. The deadline is Christmas morning, is it not? If you complete non-family jobs in advance of a deadline you miss critical trends. Shouldn’t the same apply to holidays?
  2. Called my sisters. Oh, my brother has kept me sane on many occasions, but it’s been to do with the big 3 – job, marriage, child-rearing. Sisterly expertise extends to stuff and etiquette. (If I wanted to talk stuff with my brother it’d be gadgets, and if I wanted to talk etiquette, well, he’s a psychoanalyst and he believes in truth.)
  3. Retired.

Seriously. Last year, in the thick of work, I made every single purchase online. Two years ago we returned from Hawaii, decided we needed Christmas anyway, and bought a tree on Christmas Eve. This made a great story to retell, but yikes. It’s been a pleasure this year to take my time with preparations. To wit.

  • No forcing tradition down anyone’s throats. Take the tree. We bought ours a week ago. I strung the lights myself, because everyone else hates the task. I always wind up doing most of the work anyway, mad at the people who are just sitting on the sofa. And I still haven’t hung any ornaments. I’ll probably do a few, then leave the good ones for my 10-year old niece to hang Christmas Eve. Because she thinks it’s fun.
  • I’m decorating one piece of greenery at a time. Bought the wreath at one place, garland another. Like a random walk down Christmas street.
  • If I forget to pick up green tissue paper when I go to the hardware store for an outdoor extension cord, no big deal. I can do it another day. So much less under-the-breath cursing.
  • I got paper at Paper Source (fancy! tasteful!) and gift tags at Costco (gaudy! ironic!). I have time to envision, and enjoy all the wrapping. (Although a tradition of Christmas Eve backaches from hunching over a floor covered in wrapping paper can be sweet in remembrance.)

So here’s a thought. I know the Europeans swear by August “en vacances,” but in America might we prefer 30 days from mid-December to mid-January?

  • Just imagine a leisurely Christmas. The entire nation cursing less.
  • Those who don’t celebrate the holiday could focus on New Year’s Eve. More parties! Public kissing! Sequins!
  • Those who celebrate neither Christmas nor the western New Year could still use a winter month off to frolic in snow, or warm up in Florida, Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean. Month-long vacations take away the pressure for perfect; we can tolerate a little bad weather or the occasional family snit.

But I suppose, in the America of almost-2014, we’re probably not headed towards more institutionalized vacation. Drat. So how about this? To all of you organizing Christmas for a family, especially while working at a not-family job, I raise a joyous huzzah. With jingle bell chorus, eggnog, and someone else to string your lights. This might also help – Paper Source has hedgehog goods.

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  • When I worked with a Swedish-owned company, they did a shutdown for 3 weeks in December. I thought it was so civilized. Happy holidays!

    5:14 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Tanya, Happy holidays!

  • So much, for me, is sorting out what really matters. For some, it might be the baking, for some decorating to the hilt is a pleasure. For me, those simply feel like obligation now and I’ve mostly let them go, but have retained the essentials. Much is being surrendered to my adult children now and that’s a fascinating process, I must say. I’ve set up a gift-shopping date with each of them so that at least if I’m out in the crowds, I have good company . . . Time with loved ones seems to be the guiding principle for me this season. Your approach makes retirement sounds awfully appealing. .

  • I am so much for Winter vacations – I think Summer is in any case well overrated, hyper-exaggerated and frankly, it’s usually too hot or too crowded, or both – so yes. But then again, like trying to get ahead of rush-hour, if we all do it… So here is to slowness, nothingness, togetherness!!!

  • Glad you’re not stressing. Our family decided long ago, to only get gifts etc, for the kids, and now grandkids, which has taken a lot of the stress out of the holidays for me. The adults get a charitable contribution in their honor, which I do online. We all have enough “stuff”.

    5:15 pm
    Lisa said...

    @kathy, We draw one adult, and all give to kids. Best idea ever. And I admire your charity enormously.

  • I do look forward to being able to relish holiday preparations again someday. Right now it’s still about efficiency and just Getting It Done. Enjoy and bask in the sanity.

  • I’m enjoying that same leisurely apporach to Christmas this year. The first in over 25 years and I must confess that I really like it so much more when it is slowly paced.
    The Joy of baking has returned, the delight at finding just the right gift, then wrapping…I have even planned a dinner buffet for 16 close friends 2 days before hosting our family feast.
    Sounds like you are enjoying your well deserved retirement and married life agrees with you…I feel a lightness in your posts.

    7:06 pm
    Flo said...

    “and married life agrees with you…I feel a lightness”

    Isn’t it so? May I cite your quotation and be presumptuous enough to amend LPC’s above list like so:

    4. Married the just-right person to partner with me through thick and thin, including Christmas.

    It’s the same with me, suddenly this bridegroom of mine makes navigating life soooo much easier than ever before. And I can’t even say why or how.

    Merry Christmas to you and your bridegroom, LPC!

    5:15 pm
    Lisa said...

    @hostessofthehumblebungalow, ;)

  • With a few personal stresses this year, I called my 20-something children and asked if they minded not having a tree when they were home. Both didn’t mind, I relieved myself of stress, and the hated clean up. I did enough decorating to feel festive, but not overwhelmed. What is most important to enjoy are the family, friends and food.

    5:15 pm
    Lisa said...

    @StacyfrPgh, I hope everything is better in 2014.

  • As Christmas is in the middle of summer it coincides with the children’s summer holiday and most people manage at least a few weeks off in January. It works well. I must admit it is lovely – January can be sent lying on a beach somewhere recovering.

    I don’t mind doing most of the Christmas prep. My kids are still young enough that they love it. I try not to get too overwhelmed by keeping some aspects of it quite simple.

    2013 has been a funny year for us – we are all ok but it seems so many of our friends have got divorced or found out they have really quite horrible illnesses. Overall this has left me feeling glad we are all here together and if I have to wrap a few presents and cook for 15 people then I will do it knowing how fortunate I am.

    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas Lisa.

    1:50 am
    Eleanorjane said...

    Yes, and being a teacher in somewhere where Christmas is in summer is even better ‘cos school closes a week or so before Christmas. Of course you’re utterly exhausted by the time it does close, but still…

    I’m currentlychurning through masses of work and deadlines with the sight of the a few days off after Christmas dangling alluringly in front of me. Christmas prep is a low second priority to all this work stuff (and I’ve already got the main things done).

    5:16 pm
    Lisa said...

    @A Farmer’s Wife, Yes you Aussies have a good setup in many ways.

  • am always interested when people stress out over Christmas. I find it such a RELIEF because it is about 9 billion times easier than being at work and dealing with clients, deadlines and billable hours. Plus I love entertaining and cooking so I just enjoy that side of things. Tree went up weeks ago. Got the step kids to help me because it is a big task but it was also fun. The shopping is done, and like you I did most of it online. My coalface shuts between Christmas New Year so no work…Hooray! Happy Christmas xxx

  • Lisa for President! Christmas en vacances for all!!

    5:16 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Loretta, Hahahahaha.

  • Decided last year…no more Christmas cards :) The net result? I have kept in much better touch with friends and loved one throughout the year. I am happy not burdening the environment with more paper trash. I email those who are online, and call, or write an actual note, to the few Luddites in my circle. Who knows what other simplifications are in store! And my Christmas is all the merrier for it.

  • I started wondering about a year ago, why Christmas had become my least favorite holiday? This year, after much thought, I decided to stop…..just stop and look at what Christmas really means. To me, it’s about family, tradition, and showing acts of kindness, showing those around you that they are appreciated. The little things that stress us control freaks out need to be let go of so we can concentrate on what’s important. No Christmas cards… shipping 25 gifts out of state to relatives we rarely see……no decorating if you don’t want to. Let go of the stress and just enjoy!

  • I was *just* trying to sell my friends on the idea of reverting to the old Roman calendar: y’know, the one with only 10 months that ended in December and didn’t start back up again until the spring equinox, which kicked off March.

    So you have cold cold cold cold (long series of snow days) YAY SPRING. I like this idea very much.

  • Winter vacations are the best. Once we spent the two weeks prior to Christmas on a very leisurely vacation in the Bahamas, only to return to a dark house and no tree the day before Christmas. We can always manage presents :) We hadn’t planned on a tree, but at the very last minute on Christmas Eve we ran out and bought one and managed to get it decorated just in time. To me it was the prettiest tree that we almost didn’t have.

    This year we’ve decorated with boxwood wreaths on the mirrors throughout the house. Very Colonial Williamsburg in my mind, except the wreaths aren’t on the windows. We’re happy and that’s what counts.

    5:17 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen, I love boxwood wreaths. They are out of place in California, but I slurp up photos from elsewhere.

  • Yes. Running a company allows you to give paid vacations to everyone for at least two weeks. It’s not a month, but it covers Christmas and New Years, and it’s a start. Here is to winter family time. If we can get over this cold to enjoy it.

  • Hi, Lisa! Quick question: I’m a fellow alumna of Princeton but my father isn’t. Is it inappropriate to gift him a Princeton tie for Christmas? And yes, I realize gifting ties to dads is ever so passé, but for a multitude of reasons, my options are limited, and safe options are safe for a reason. :) Thanks in advance!

    5:17 pm
    Lisa said...

    @V, It’s TOTALLY appropriate. He’s surely prouder of it even than you are:).

  • I need all the Huzzah I can get just to mustard the strength and incentive to;
    buy the tree, a must isn’t ?
    Hang the darn lights…my least favorite job
    Decorate the tree, white paper birds only, thanks to my cat who, last year, decided to jump on top of the tree from the stairway and took the tree and all beautiful glass ornaments with it.
    By the presents…almost done
    Wrap, wrap and wrap some more
    Plan the menu for 20 guests
    design the tablescape
    Clean the silver
    Drink fabulous wines, enjoy the food, the company and collapse.

    Next morning…back at work

    5:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Francine Gardner, :(. Hope the elves come to help.

  • When I worked-always in large corporations- I noticed a real lull from mid-Dec to mid-Jan. Oh, people were at work, but the vibe was different. When I had no children, I always worked the week b/t Christmas and New Year’s. I took very long lunches with other people working that shift, but in fact was superbly productive, without continual interruptions and time-wasting meetings.

    Even in essential services, like hospitals, there was a slowdown. Humans just need to slow down, even if corporations don’t admit it.

  • Last year we took our big family vacation right after Christmas. We packed up the kids and went to Portugal. We were there in time for Epiphany, which gets a lot more attention outside of the US. It was brilliant, and it was so relaxing to get a vacation right after Christmas.

  • This year I only used the tree ornaments that I like and only put out the decorations that I like. Why it took me so many years to figure this out, I don’t know…..I felt as though, if we had them, they should be displayed.

    Such a little thing made me so stupidly happy.

    5:17 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, I know! Why is that such a big step?!?!

  • I always sigh after reading you. I just do. You’re so yummy. Finally finished the tree yesterday after more than a week of lights only. Took me hours to complete the banisters after layer upon layer of festive decoration. I can’t stop at green. I wish I could. Wishing you a warm and wonderful holiday season with all your loves. xoxo

  • 30 days vacay between Dec and Jan would be WONDERFUL. Honestly that’d be magic. But, the Governor gave me 4 days (23-25, 1st) so I’ll take it. Only using 1 other vacation day (26th) and that’s just fine by me for now. When we have kid(s) I am sure I’ll feel differently. Many people in our office are taking both weeks off since their kids are home on break and it actually saves them money with daycare/babysitter/nanny. :)

  • Sisters are the secret sauce to coping with pretty much anything. Merry Ho Ho Ho to you as you make your way to the Christmas morning finish line!

  • you’ve got it so right. and as such, i am hiring you as my christmas consultant for 2014.

    xx and merry merry to you: am feeling your happiness radiate through your posts, and that’s so nice.