This year, my husband and I decided to jettison most of the people on our Christmas card list. We did it for our sanity and our budget. We used to send cards to 80 or more people, but we have gradually whittled down the list to 20. With the exception of my almost nonagenarian grandmother who is tech savvy for her age and owns both a Facebook account and a Kindle, the people who remain on our list aren’t on Facebook and therefore don’t get regular updates on our family’s life. Grandma gets a card just because she’s my grandma. (Hi, grandma!)
The decision saved us about $100 between the costs of Walgreens photo cards and postage, which is a big deal during a season when spending is already high. Besides, with an almost-8-year-old daughter whose teeth are coming in as crooked as a dog’s hind leg, we need to save all we can to pay for the early treatment the orthodontist is likely to recommend.
It took me a long time to feel okay about cutting people off our Christmas card list. Nice people are supposed to send cards. But once I let go of the task, it felt good to have 60 fewer cards and brag letters to pack into envelopes and address during the busiest, most expensive season of the year.
I am an organized person by nature, but Christmas challenges even the most stalwart of planners. The reason Christmas creeps into retail stores earlier each year might be because there’s so much to do, you have to start sooner rather than later. I purchased most of my daughters’ gifts and picked up gift cards for their teachers before the calendar page flipped to November, but certain unfinished tasks still occupy a large chunk of space in my brain during these last days before Christmas.
My highest priority this week was to get the girls’ gifts wrapped before they both get out of elementary school and preschool for the holidays. The wrapping process becomes more complicated when kids are running around the house. I barely accomplished my goal and quickly dumped the wrapped gifts in the guest room closet before running out the door for preschool pickup. While there still are a few more days of school, they are party days and I’ll be there myself as a parent helper.
I still have things to do: a veggie tray to assemble for a family party, preschool party bags to stuff, cards to deliver to teachers, craft projects to help my daughters complete so they can give them to relatives, and I’ll eventually have to pack for myself and the girls so we can drive 6 hours to visit family. I’m waiting for the gifts I ordered for relatives to arrive on the front porch so I can wrap them and pack them for the drive. The other day, I finally bought a gift for my other grandmother, the one who does not have a Kindle or Facebook account. She lives on the blurry edges of dementia in a nice assisted living community, and people like her are not easy to buy for. I hope she likes the soft fleece cardigan.
Christmas also is never simple in terms of the sheer amount of stuff that is given and received. I get impulses this time of year to list the contents of our playroom on Craigslist, which is saying a lot because I loathe dealing with people on Craigslist. Last weekend, I sold a large rocking horse to make room for the coming influx of new toys.
Sometimes I get nostalgic for the old days described in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Only oranges, mittens, and candy sticks for Christmas? Lovely! No obnoxious Elf on the Shelf or Pinterest projects? Even better. Back then, people probably didn’t receive an assortment of factory-printed cards filled with hurried signatures during the holidays. They were grateful for the few sincere letters they received from friends and family, and writing those letters had meaning beyond checking another item off the to-do list.
This year, we’re doing our small part to make the holidays a little simpler, to leave time and energy to reflect on that Silent Night. Even if it’s only our Christmas card list, it’s still progress.
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