I hate the word: rules. I’ve lived decades as a to-the-letter rule follower, bending over backward to please others and seeking to satisfy my own stringent standards. But—phew!— somewhere around birthday number forty I began to want to *defenestrate anything that smells like a rule. This happens when we get older—I breathe easier now and seek growing measures of self-grace.
That being said, there are certain rules, if you will, that I impose upon myself at Christmastime. Mostly these regs smack of give yourself a break, girl so I don’t run myself ragged, fussing over details no one but I will notice and making myself stressed and altogether unpleasant to be around (ask Luke).
In general, here is my December manifesto:
1. Make a list and check it twice. No, I’m not talking about a to-do list—more of a to-don’t list. After the glittery haze clears and every last pine needle is vacuumed, I write down what worked and what didn’t during Christmas. Falling under the category of 2015’s don’t bothers: roasting chestnuts (no one ever eats them). Sometimes I go as far as to write a letter to next year’s self. Dear Crazy Lady, Remember the night you came in and squashed the kids’ cut-out cookie project by yelling at them for getting sugar all over the kitchen floor? Yeah, you’d been to the mall. Do. Not. Go. To. The. Mall. Online ordering or small, local shops or nothing, okay? You hate the mall, especially at Christmastime. So just don’t. I pull my list out in late November before my plans spiral out of control–and glance at it when I sense the temptation to overdo.
2. Don’t do anything—anything—that can wait until January. No vet immunizations, dental cleanings, house repairs, flossing. I jot down these hateful, unrelated-to-Christmas-joy tasks and stuff them in a drawer, where they belong, until after Twelfth Night. Workaday will come soon enough.
3. Don’t keep piling on. Procrastination is key for perfectionists! I’ve learned to go s-l-o-w-l-y when it comes to decorating the house. I find that the years I’ve decked my halls by early December, I wind up looking for more ways to add—and annoy myself with one more trip to Michael’s or one last Etsy order. Enough, already! This year, I’m pulling out one or two trinkets at a time, clipping some greens and berries for vases, and tying a ribbon on one or two friendly beast figurines per day. Closer to Christmas I’ll gather more from outside—magnolia and cedar and pine—and grace the mantel and the table and the windowsills. Dolling up the house bit by bit has the happy effect of forcing me to appreciate each stage of Christmas, preparing as I go for the big event.
4. Look outwards. I have a pretty darn good idea of how I enjoy the holidays. But what about my husband, my children, my in-laws, my community? I want to be a part of their Christmas cheer. Along these lines, I serve breakfast in bed to my daughters on their first day of break from school. They delight to see that tray, complete with a steaming cup of tea and sprig of holly. A small gesture, yes, but it’s a tradition that says I’m so glad you’re home!
5. Wear red and green with abandon. Red and green are pretty together, but the colors are so associated with Christmas, one dare not outside December. So seize the day! I like to don subtle, offbeat versions of red and green—a red checked shirt with jeans and my sage green sneakers, or pairing a mint blouse with a burgundy skirt.
What about you, lovely readers? What are some of your Christmas dos and don’ts? How do you stay sane during December?
* Defenstrate: a fun, handy word for “to toss out a window”