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De-hyping Christmas

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All I wanted for Christmas that year was the fashion show stage on which to perch my Dawn doll.

And I got it. And a ton of other stuff, too. Christmas at my childhood home was always a little out of control, and these days, it’s a veritable orgy (my parents still live in the same house and now have six grandchildren).

Which is not necessarily a good thing.

Here’s what I remember about Christmases as a child: making my list, checking it over daily, wondering if I’d asked for the things that would REALLY make me happy, and then…the Christmas day letdown.

My sisters and I would wait on the stairs until all the grownups got their coffee and my dad got the camera set up. It took five hours, I swear (or maybe just 15 minutes).

Finally, we’d scramble up the stairs and behold our loot from Santa. There were ooohs and aaaaahs as we discovered our skate board (Sheri), our Big Wheel (Tami), or our set of World Book encyclopediae (me. Yes, my dorkiness goes way back).

Then we’d go on to the wrapped presents. We had a rule that we’d all focus on one person at a time as he/she opened a present. With grandparents, parents, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins, there was a whole lotta waiting going on.

Eventually we’d have everything opened and settle in for an afternoon of eating and playing with our booty. Wait, I mean trying out our new stuff.

I’d flit between the latest Nancy Drew book and my new spirograph, pick up a random World Book (usually L) and listen to my new groovy radio/pendant. And, of course, put Dawn on her stage and twirl her around.

If I stopped for a moment, I would feel it. And I didn’t want to feel it. The emptiness.

Every year an awful secret thought would pop up: Is this all?

I’d get everything I wanted, but I never felt sated.

I did not lack for any of the “real” stuff, either. I had plenty of love and attention from my parents. I had the same self-esteem that pre-teen girls tend to have. I did not live in lack.

Still, after such a buildup, Christmas was a letdown. Even then I knew the stuff wasn’t meaningful in the scheme of things.

I want to save my children from the yule malaise I experienced. So I’ve come up with these 5 tried and true methods to avoid the Christmas buildup/letdown.

Hermetically seal children in their TV-less, wireless-less rooms from October 1 until December 26. If the store is out of hermetic sealant, duct tape will do.

Find a hypnotist who will reprogram the kids. Anytime they hear the word “Christmas,” they are to forget about presents and ask Mom if they can do a chore.

Tell the children that the labor unions have gotten to the elves and Christmas is canceled due to the strike. Luckily, underwear and socks are not manufactured by elves.

Explain the new church doctrine: Christmas presents can be purchased only with drachmas. And we’re fresh out.

Bummer about the USDA. All foreign reindeer are prohibited from entry to our country due to the risk of hoof-in-mouth disease. Maybe next year…

What are your thoughts on the Christmas buildup? How do you temper expectations, if indeed you do?

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  • comment avatar Terra December 19, 2008

    Oh the letdown, we all get even if we get all the gifts in the world. My 3 year old said something profound last night when she was having an AWFUL time going to bed and I told her I worried that Santa was watching she said “I don’t need presents, we can just wrap what I already have and I will open those” Believe it or not the gifts aren’t that important even at 3. IT is the love of family and the memories that we create I suppose. I loved your post, thanks for sharing!

  • comment avatar Catherine December 19, 2008

    You are hilarious!!

    My kids seem to get IT way more than I did at that age. They asked for a trip south to visit extended family. So, basically, all they want for Christmas is to be surrounded by cousins and warm sunshine.

    And guess what??! I’m gonna let them down…. we can’t go until New Year’s, dang it.

    Seriously, though, I think it’s hard to not be let down on Christmas Day as a child. The collective build up is just so HUGE.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson December 19, 2008

    You crack me up! I’ve learned that parents set the expectations, not the kids. And I’ve tried to make the presents just a part of a much grander celebration with lots of great food, togetherness and games. So far, it has worked. For me at least. πŸ™‚

    As for my childhood, Christmas has always been huge. But I honestly couldn’t tell you even one gift I received besides that Grease 8-track!

  • comment avatar Lori December 19, 2008

    Terra: your 3yo is very wise. Do we do a disservice to kids by hyping that innocence out of them?

    Catherine: thanks for validating my feelings from so long ago. As I wrote this, I was pretty sure I was the only one who felt the Let Down.

    Amber: Now THAT was be a gift that would make Christmas complete! It’s The Word, you know.

  • comment avatar Momma, The Casual Perfectionist December 20, 2008

    Wait a minute!? Underwear and socks are not manufactured by elves!? Say it ain’t so, Lori! Say it ain’t so! πŸ˜‰

    On a more serious note (or is it lighter?), this year, Claire really wanted a Christmas Tree for Christmas. After we put that up, she said she wanted a Dorbie Ball (or something like that). She asked Santa for it, and I think one of her Uncles may be fulfilling that wish.

    She’s three, so she’s pretty easy to please at this stage. πŸ™‚


  • comment avatar Bonnie January 8, 2009

    I can relate completely! I feel that every year and this year my 10 yr old son was kind of subdued thru the holiday even though he got pretty much everything he asked for. He kept saying “it just didn’t feel like Christmas” I know all that build up just led to a let down. I decided to try looking at what we have to be thankful for and at dinner we have all been saying 3 things we are thankful for. Believe it or not it really seems to lift everyones spirits..

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