Wreck the Halls

pretty sure Father Christmas doesn’t want us to do housework

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Serena Wagner

Let’s start off with a Ye Olde Holly Jolly Holiday Disclaimer:

If you do not celebrate the holiday commonly known as “Christmas,” just pretend I’m offering you an extremely well-researched and articulate observation on the life of a Catholic-raised Midwesterner, and please do not assume that I assume you celebrate Christmas, as well. I do not assume so. That said ...

Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten totally stressed out over something as simple as Christmas decorations. I’m not talking to you people out there with 25 holiday-themed inflatable lawn ornaments surrounding your house like giant, poofy sentinels. You people have your own set of problems. I’m talking to anyone with a bin or two full of holiday decorations stuffed into a dingy corner of the basement, just yearning to be freed from their Rubbermaid prisons to bring joy to the world around them. Your bins just sit there. Untouched. Unloved. Sad and alone while you put off your seasonal preparations for another week.

People with your hands raised, I am one of you.

What is it about Christmas that turns a normal procrastinator into Captain McProcrastinator Pants? Is it the nog? It’s probably the nog.

My own problem with Christmas decorations is that, as much as I wish I kept up with my household duties, I may have left a chore or two undone. For years. And Christmas is a big, fat, jingle bell-festooned reminder that these things are still not finished.

One year my wife and I had a fresh, lush, real, mostly symmetrical Christmas tree all set up in our living room, and we just never got around to decorating it. I have no idea what we were doing with our carefree, child-free hours. Probably taking romantic, moonlit walks down snowy sidewalks, drinking hot toddies, and fondly staring into each other’s souls.

After Christmas we just left it up. Before our big New Years Eve party, we decorated it with party hats and noisemakers and stuff. So there’s a little Martha Stewart-style decorating tip for all you procrastinators – just go ahead and do things half-assed. You might end up with a weird party feature later on.

There may have even been a year or two when my wife and I just never bothered to get a Christmas tree at all, but I can’t remember (because of all the hot toddies and soul staring). I’m sure many of you younger Christmas-celebrating couples out there have done (or will be doing) the same thing at some point. Don’t feel bad. It happens.

However. If you’ve got kids, not getting a Christmas tree is simply not a viable option. Maybe you don’t have time to go get a tree. Maybe it’s too expensive this year. Maybe you’ve developed a horrible pine allergy. Well, that’s too bad because not getting a tree means you go straight to hell – a special kind of hell just for parents where you listen to an electronic Fisher-Price version of Let It Go on really crappy speakers. On repeat. Forever. While a three-year-old kid asks you, “Let what go?” On repeat. Forever.

My own problem with Christmas decorations is that, as much as I wish I kept up with my household duties, I may have left a chore or two undone. For years. And Christmas is a big, fat, jingle bell-festooned reminder that these things are still not finished. So I feel guilty and I feel the need to finish them before I can truly be ready to start stringing popcorn. But once my guilt has snowballed in a giant snowball of disgruntled angst, I fell about as festive as a frozen dog turd.

So instead of busting out the garland (the tinsel kind, not the Judy kind), I pretty much stare off into space and scowl.

But kids make it hard to ignore Christmas. They’re like big puppy dogs in cute lil’ Santa hats, singing a selection of classic holiday favorites, constantly reminding me what I jerk I am if I don’t bust out the giant Box o’ Christmas today. It’s easy to postpone your own holiday joy. It’s criminal to postpone your kids’ (in most states).

The looniest part of all this lunacy is that my kids don’t give a figgy pudding what the house looks like. Whilst prancing about the house hanging up decorations, they don’t see the shelves that need to be organized or the boxes that need to be put away or the dust that needs to be dusted. They just see the decorations. Like old friends they haven’t seen in years, they cradle the ornaments in their little hands. They see the sparkle and the color and the glow. They just see what’s important. And at the end of the season, that’s all they’ll remember.

And that’s all I need to remember, too.

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