Too Much Christmas?

An unsnowy Christmas:  rain and more rain!

An unsnowy Christmas: rain and more rain!

My end-of-year has been Over the Top! I am now thinking, “How much Christmas is enough?” At first I wanted to blame my busyness on Christmas but it wasn’t really. Everyday things kept going on despite the “need” to prepare for celebrations.

A bit of background. My family of origin celebrates Christmas big-time in the Roman Catholic tradition. This year I spent 6 weeks enmeshed in Christmas goings-on before the 25th, and I came to appreciate my parents’ observance of Advent. For them, Christmas starts on Christmas day; it doesn’t end there! Their preparations involve the 4 Sunday masses of Advent, lots of baking, decorating the house and yard, and having lots of visitors and big meals on both the 24th and 25th. But then they enjoy fine food, drink, decor, visitors and quiet contemplation – for at least another 12 days, if not the whole month of January.

Meanwhile I felt like Christmas started on November 12 and went for 43 days! I reviewed November and December, trying to figure out why I felt so rushed. I work a mix of weekdays, evenings and Saturdays. This year I had work events on 2 additional Saturdays and church commitments on 3 additional Saturdays. My nephew stayed overnight at our place 4 times – always a pleasure, but it adds a time crunch to the mornings, which are normally so leisurely!

At work I did 4 evening programs for teens during this time, which is rewarding but exhausting – I don’t know how our Teen Library Assistant does it! (Note to Self: no year-end vacation for her in 2015, LOL!) I also organized 2 Christmas crafts programs at work. I had to select the crafts, buy materials, make models, and then teach them! I was really, really rusty. But it did build my confidence a little, especially after sharing an afternoon with the grateful participants. I had two baby showers to attend – despite not having been to any for about 5 years. Seeing the parent’s happiness was a pleasure, too. I had my regular work evening meetings. Amidst it all, I was celebrating the city’s new library! So my everyday life hasn’t been typical lately.

I can and do piggyback on my parents’ Christmas celebrations, showing up at their place for decadent feasts I don’t have to prepare. Therefore, I do “just a little” at my own house. We have a 6-foot fir tree as a Christmas tree, which we hauled into the house on the 15th and decorated on the 21st. We have some modest star-shaped outdoor lights that we leave on a timer for about 2 weeks. We exchange small gifts – each of us has a Christmas stocking. Rom and I set a price limit. (As an aside, we do more for our birthdays than for Christmas. Link has three gift occasions each year: birthday, Christmas, and our annual visit to Toronto. Rom and I also splurge a lot on ourselves on vacation travel).

So that would be my whole Christmas, and it would be plenty. Except that my extended family exchanges gifts with every person, and I just love giving gifts. Receiving is nice, but I like giving them much more! All the adults in the family say they don’t need or want anything, yet we still keep buying for everyone. Maybe we all like giving the best! It’s even more fun to find something the recipient didn’t know they wanted or needed – and the satisfaction of seeing that the gift is actually appreciated and won’t be immediately regifted! And that is based on how well we know each other and keep in touch about what we do and have and use. We gift a combination of new, thrifted and homemade stuff.

Christmas shopping/finding/making is required. I have a system that works for me. I buy stocking gifts all year when I am travelling – because a novel item from London or New York never goes amiss. I have some weekdays off work (due to working those evenings and Saturdays) so I can do boutique and book store shopping without the crowds. I stopped in at some craft fairs for local goods. I also took two days off work to have lunch and shop with my mom and sister.

This year was different because of the amount of food preparation I did. I attended 7 events at which I didn’t have to bring food, and 7 at which I did! That meant several hours cooking or baking for each. I took my time so I could enjoy it. Although my mom did remind me that my sister usually calls her and “puts in an order” for gingerbread cookies rather than making her own, so maybe I can get away with that next time, ha! So why did I attend 14 events? Six of them were for work and four for church, most in an “official” capacity, and every regular meeting was turned into a food event. The rest were personal get-togethers with family. In the midst of it all, Rom only had one event to attend, so we went out to dinner a couple of times, out to the symphony, and out for a board games night!

Meanwhile, Link is here for two weeks, staying at home, celebrating Christmas and visiting friends daily, so that adds another layer of fun, chaos and complexity!

Is it January yet?

Actually, Christmas itself was refreshing – just relaxing family meals. Now I can kick back and enjoy many days of winter cheer – with books and movies and the Quality Streets I’ve long awaited. I have 3 more days off work. I usually don’t go anywhere or do anything in January or February. Hibernation sounds perfect!

Hey, the last week of December also marks 3 years of An Exacting Life. I’ll be back before the New Year!


  1. It is funny how Christmas events creep up on you and before you know it you’ve attended a half-dozen. Technically, since Donna and I are jewish, we don’t celebrate. But, since we don’t live in a cave, it is impossible to escape it unless we go to a foreign country (an expensive way to avoid it, but somehow when it is in another language and culture it is much more interesting).
    We try not to do presents, but we do go to parties, and we walk around and look at the lights.
    This year we got horn-swaggled into Christmas Eve at a friends house, morning waffles for jews and rootless folk at another friends, 4PM pot-luck dinner around the corner, and wine and cookies at 9PM down the block. The next day I just wanted to sleep in and start a juice cleanse (I came to my senses in the late afternoon).

    • Yeah, since it is a day off for just about everyone, it’s a good time to gather. I am glad I can drop in on family celebrations and not have to do my own from scratch (well, I have been in that situation when living “away,” and chose to downsize it to something tiny merry!)

  2. Holly

    Wow, you were very busy at work and at home this November and December! I love the approach of a month of preparation followed by Christmas Day (on the heels of my Chirstmas Eve birthday) as sort of a kick-off to the holiday. I then enjoy food and drink and especially my decor until at least the Epiphany, and usually a while longer. I want to savor Christmas. Among my friends I am last to put up and decorate a tree and the last to take it down. Their frenzy in the first week of December amuses me, though I often wonder if I should be in more of a panic at that point based on what I am hearing from others. I do buy gifts for a small extended family plus a more robust offering for my offspring and their partners and my darling grandson. Somehow it all works, though I too am really ready for hibernation come January 15 or so.

    • Happy Birthday, Holly! I think 4 to 6 weeks of planning for 1-2 days is too much, but when I look at what I’d want to give up, I can’t decide! Maybe the idea of every regular work or community meeting having to turn into a holiday version? I am very conscious that I get to drop in on my mom’s Christmas eve and Christmas day dinners. If it weren’t for that, I am not sure what I’d do instead.

      • Holly

        And just to be clear, I was not being critical. I think it’s great that you can have the best of both worlds with your own busy life and the traditions (and holiday meals!) at your mom’s house. I don’t know that you need to give up anything. If the “holiday versions” of the regular meetings leave people feeling happy and festive, then why not? Though you might consider ordering some cookies from mom next year as that is a great idea. 🙂

      • I was being self-critical, or at least analytic – I am trying to figure out what I enjoy most and what feels like an obligation. I’ve decided I like all the work functions but not the pressure to cook and bake for them all, so I might do some big-batch baking next year, put in a cookie order with Mom, or just buy stuff!

  3. The answer to your question is yes. Of course, now we are in the post-Christmas sales days which includes the final car sales push to reduce inventory. I agree about the 43 days of Christmas. Maybe we should refine the carol of 12 days. Happy New Year.

  4. Fiona

    Wow! That is such a lot of events on in the lead-up to Christmas. I can understand having that much on if you then get a month off work to recover – but just 3 days off seems impossible! I hope January offers plenty of time to rest and recuperate as needed! Here I think we don’t necessarily get that ‘down time’ because of the seasons. It’s light till after 9pm, kids are up late, the weather is hot…it is just a tiring time of year.

    Buying gifts for the whole extended family is a huge thing. I really admire people who have that thoughtful knack of being able to find something ‘just right’ for someone else. It must take great listening skills and being very attuned to people’s interests. I’m a bit ‘known’ in the family for my less-than-ideal gift choices. I am trying to improve but it really takes so much time and preparation. I am always impressed when people ‘nail it’ with a gift.

    Hope you have a fantastic time with Link at home. Congratulations on the 3-year anniversary of An Exacting Life!

    • I cannot even imagine dealing with the lead-up to the end of the school year before Christmas. And our days are so short right now, it is considered very acceptable to be lazy and stay in at night! I had lots of time off work before Christmas and spent it all getting ready, then I have Dec 25 to 30 off with no commitments – a 4-day weekend and a couple of vacation days. Thanks for the good wishes!

  5. Congratulations on your three year anniversary!!! and I’m glad you had a good Christmas. Here’s wishing you a fab New years xx

  6. Busy, busy, busy!!! Growing up my mother did the whole Advent candle thing every Sunday, and tonnes of biscuit baking (she German). I do like celebrating Christmas, just a shame work has to get in the way.

    I also like gift giving – and will do a rant on my blog about gifts. I don’t like Quality Street chocolates. You should come here – we always get some tins as gifts and no one in my family likes them, though we will eat them if there’s nothing else. But ones we definitely never eat is those Lindt balls. Gooey yuck!

    Enjoy your time with Link, you crafter-extraordinaire! And happy blog birthday!

  7. I love the whole build up to Christmas, but would happily simplify everything we do as a family if others could get on board with that too. Like you I love the hibernation that January & February bring.

    I hope you’re having fun with Link.

    • Link heads out tomorrow, sigh, but we’ve had a good time over the holidays. I like all our family Christmas prep, but would like to simplify the work stuff. One thing that would help is planning and buying for all those teen programs and craft programs a lot earlier.

  8. Whew, that is a LOT going on! Hopefully you’ll have time to recharge next month. I also enjoy hibernating and staying home in January/February. Mr. G and I are pretty low key about Christmas and I really like it. We have large families though, which does lead to a lot of hustle and bustle because we celebrate so many times. But I really can’t complain (it’s the only time we see some people all year), plus both our employers give us time off for Christmas/New Year’s and it’s a great way to end each year.

    • I feel guilty that I complained about having too many Christmas events to attend! I did enjoy them but because they all took place before Dec 24, it felt like I had to celebrate regularly from mid-November on, and extend the season backwards too much. But I totally look forward to vegging now!

  9. Glad you had a lovely yet busy Christmas and I hope you enjoy your few days off work. It has been very busy here too trying to keep work, home and cottage reinstatement going whilst planning and being involved in Christmas events and Christmassy stuff. Of course my brilliant idea of having a New Years Eve party to end the year on a high amidst our general everyday turmoil is not seeming like a good idea anymore!!! I have my Marigolds on once more cleaning the house at high speed and then it will be the mass production of party food in the next two days. I think I might have earned a rest on New Years day. All the best to you and your family in 2015 and well done on your 3 year blog birthday. Viv x

  10. Sounds like you had fun and much to be grateful for! 😀 You are one busy person but you enjoyed it! Honestly with my health I think I would have ended up in the ER, LOL… Just kidding, I don’t like ER’s. But I know I wouldn’t handle 14events on a good year! congrats on your 3rd year! I’ll be looking for it! Merry Christmas and Have a happy new year!

  11. Six weeks of Christmas before Christmas?? That would be overwhelming! I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  12. Lisa

    Whew busy, but sounds like you had some lovely times! It was a green (ok, brown) Christmas here, and I can’t remember the last one; so disappointing. January is almost here – Happy New Year to you!

  13. As a Hispanic and catholic our Christmas ends on Jan. 6th with the Three Kings. Happy New Year!

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