It seems like the older we get, the less time we spend appreciating the holidays like when we were children. I can still remember the days when I spent the entire week before Christmas relaxing, playing video games, watching television, making snow forts and wondering what was in those boxes under the tree.
Now, I'm experiencing my first holiday season as a college graduate, and I finally understand why my mom spent hours fussing over her lack of time to get presents, make cookies and why the spirit of Christmas seemed lost on her sometimes. This year, I'm faced with the same conundrum of when time will allow me to get everything accomplished before Dec. 24.
Let's start with my overzealous idea of working 60 hours per week between two jobs during the holidays. It seemed like a great way to make some extra money to get the presents so much of my family deserves this year. I quickly discovered that working so much provided me little time to find those perfect gifts. It also became just plain exhausting and was ruining my spirit. So that idea lasted about two weeks.
As I've already discussed, my mother gets stressed out during the holidays, especially when she's making cherry tortes, a family favorite of my father and uncle. They're not complicated to make but always turn out looking less than perfect, which makes my mother furious. For the past couple years, I've taken over the task of making the tortes. I know my family doesn't care what they look like as long as they're edible.
During Christmas break at college I had plenty of time to spend baking between watching Christmas specials on television. Now, it's less than a week before Christmas and the ingredients are still sitting on my boyfriend's counter at his house -- about 100 feet away from the plethora of presents that aren't wrapped yet.
At first, I was ahead of the game. I had presents picked out for everyone by Thanksgiving. It was just a matter of going to the store or buying them online. Before I knew it, it was less than a week before Christmas, and I was spending the extra $30 for next-day shipping.
Another thing I've realized as I've gotten older is that it becomes more and more difficult to make my own Christmas list, let alone pick out something for other people, like my parents. They have everything they need, and if they don't have it, they'd get it if they wanted it. It's like that with all the adults in my family who participate in the yearly gift exchange. My mom said it best when she told me, "All we're doing is exchanging money."
Now, my parents spend a lot more on me than I do on them, but I always know what I'm getting! This year I wanted a tablet, so I'm getting a tablet. I tell my mom exactly which one I want, and she goes out and gets it. Actually, this year it's taken me so long to pick out which one I want that she offered to just give me the money to go get one myself. If that's not the epitome of Christmas spirit, I don't know what is.
Though, I don't blame my parents at all. It's not like they could pick out a tablet or snowboard for me. Those are items people are very particular about, which brings me to how much stress we go through to pick out gifts we think other people would like.
Whether it's my boyfriend, mother or cousin, I always put too much effort into finding the perfect present. Chances are, they'll like whatever I get and at the very least, appreciate the thought. But somehow, I don't think about that until after I've already spent hours surfing the Internet for the gift with the "wow" factor.
Ok! So, we've gotten through the days leading up to Christmas. Now, it's time to relax and enjoy the day, or not.
For the past five years I've always worked on Christmas morning. Truthfully, I don't mind it. My family never got up and opened presents on Christmas morning. We slept in and carted our presents down to my grandpa's house and exchanged gifts with each other there. So I sign up to work Christmas so one of my co-workers can enjoy their traditions.
After work, I'd drive over to my grandpa's house, get comfortable and enjoy the rest of the evening.
This year I'm getting the opportunity to experience the joys that come with attending multiple functions in one day. I'm a family-oriented person and always wanted to date someone who valued that, too. However, it never occurred to me that during the holidays I'd be expected to juggle twice as many plans and lose the chance to spend Christmas day relaxing at home.
It's easy to understand how the joys of the holidays can get lost behind the hectic schedules, food preparations, overtime at work and the need to get the ultimate present.
This year, I have one more challenge for every individual out there. Take at least a couple moments to stop baking, planning and worrying. Look around you and realize the wonderful people in your life that don't care if the food looks perfect, who will love whatever gift you picked out for them and value your presence above everything else during the holidays. Remember what the holidays were like when you were younger and try to capture at least a little bit of the excitement you once felt as the days crept closer to Christmas.