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Christmas Letdown and how to avoid it

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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.

Which is not necessarily a good thing.

Here’s what I remember about Christmas 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 encyclopedias (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 loot.

I’d flit between the latest Nancy Drew book and my new spirograph, pick up a random World Book (usually L — I love all things 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.


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?

Lori Holden
Author: Lori Holden

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  • comment avatar JoAnn December 10, 2009

    Growing up, I LOVED Christmas. We went carolling, took cookie plates to people, and food to shut-ins. I grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and money was tight. There were four kids in my family, and we rarely got a lot of gifts, and NEVER got everything we wanted. For us, the dreaming about all the cool stuff was just as much fun (if not more so, because there wasn’t the let down) as if we would have gotten everything we wanted. My mom was an awesome gift chooser, and I cherished every gift I got as a child.

    We also had a lot of hype around the gifts. Mom would disguise each gift and put things that would rattle inside to throw us off the trail. One year, Santa left us clue-hunt. We got a clue that led to another clue that led to another clue. We ran all over the house figuring out the riddles. It was awesome.

    I never felt the let-down. The hype was all about the element of surprise, and because we didn’t have much, what little we got was so special.

    Because the surprise was the biggest part, we all knew where she hid the gifts, but NONE of us looked. The thought of ruining that surprise was just dreadful.

    Well, now that my comment is longer than your post, I’ll leave it at that. May you and your kids find something that fills the void this holiday season! 🙂 [And, I’m thinking Season Two of Thirtysomething just may do that for you. Just kidding.]

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson December 10, 2009

    You. Are. Brilliant. And this is soooooooo true.

    For me, I don’t suffer so much from the Christmas letdown but rather, Halloween. Yes, I do have an obsession. 🙂

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver December 10, 2009

    JoAnn, your family treasure hunt sounds WONDERFUL. What a great way for your parents to make it more about the experience than the thing.

    Some have visions of sugar plums. Mine are more along the lines of 30-something…

    Amber, when you’re married to the Lord of the Gourd, you’re allowed to overdo it a bit at Halloween.

    Thanks, you two 🙂

  • comment avatar Danielle December 10, 2009

    The two years I felt completely let down were the years I knew exactly what I was getting. My brothers and I were awful about finding gifts before Christmas. One year all of our presents were returned and the only thing we got were alarm clocks. You would have thought that would have taught us a lesson….nope. Some years later my mom put the Christmas gifts out before Christmas. We were old enough to know the capabilities of anexacto knife and a little more tape. Enough said….it was a lousy Christmas and the last time I ever looked for my Christmas gifts!