A year off from everything

Is it so bad?

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I read Emily Oster’s newsletter and her most recent piece was about seeing family safely over the holidays. She closed with this caveat:

Unbridled happiness! That’s one way to think about the holidays.

I’m not a holidays grouch overall, but the holidays DO reliably make me grouchy when they’re happening. Hosting Thanksgiving wears me out most especially because I resent doing table decorations on top of cleaning and cooking and getting all the food out at the same time and figuring out what the kids will do. Table decorations are one of those things that you can’t do at the last minute or else they look shitty and sparse. Oh and there’s ironing the cloth napkins. Like table decorations, not my idea, but if it’s not done, someone in my family will notice.

Then Christmas, which comes with the annual rehashing of when we will do Xmas Eve breakfast/Xmas Eve Mass/Xmas Eve Dinner/Xmas Eve gifts. There’s the tipsy late night Christmas Eve wrapping and arguing over how much Santa realness to sprinkle around the house (my take is usually: THEY HAVE ENOUGH MAGIC ALREADY.) That’s all before Christmas Day, which involves two family meetups IRL, one virtual, and four rounds of gifts for the kids (from Santa at home, then my parents, then the out of town grandparents, and finally the aunts and uncles.) Also there’s the getting kids dressed and at a place on time for various things. Last year I remember putting my exhausted sobbing older son to bed, and FORBIDDING my husband to go in and make him feel better since he was the most spoiled child on earth and just needed to fall asleep (my husband, a softy, overrode me.)

Here are two holiday photos, one from my younger son’s first Christmas and then his most recent Christmas, that sum things up:

Based on the predictions for the pandemic over the winter I think we may just opt out this year and stay home aside from potentially some outside gift exchanging for the kids’ sake.

We are very lucky in that we don’t have very elderly/infirm family members so that the “these could be our last holiday together” specter doesn’t loom over us—but am I alone in not minding taking one year off? (Only one, though, please.) Still doing the holidays, but just the four of us, without the many plans and logistics. No plotting Thanksgiving out three weeks in advance. A five pound turkey instead of a 25 pound one. Two bottles of wine instead of a case plus three cases of beer. Not worrying about packing up gifts or who will be the designated driver and whether to stay late and have fun or be the pooper who leaves early and gets the kids in bed on time. Staying in pajamas all day. Avoiding political/pandemic talk with family members. Not fretting about the kids tearing around a childfree family member’s house. At Easter I didn’t mind just doing an Easter egg hunt in the house and watching Mass in the kitchen on Zoom over mimosas and coffee cake, and I’m also maybe not that sad about not buying 15 pounds of candy this year and getting my kids dressed up for school Halloween/Trunk or Treat/Trick or Treat and then my own weird issues with hiding/disposing with all the surplus candy.

Maybe I do hate the holidays?

I don’t. I will of course miss seeing my family after so much time off and traditions like the scratch-off tickets my aunt puts under our plates, my dad’s cousin bringing his accordion to Christmas dinner, and sharing the opłatki (I wonder if that one will ever happen again, since it involves lots of people touching food with their hands.) I have just wished holidays + kids were scaled back by 15% or so in the best of times. I know I have parented harder this year than ever before and I’ll take any breaks where I can get them. That brings me some happiness—bridled happiness.

~Claire

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