Friday, December 30, 2011

The Christmas Crunch

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Every year I resolve to glide through Christmas like Mary Bailey herself--elegance and grace under pressure, wearing pearls and pumps to boot. Instead, I find myself galumphing around Target on December 23rd dressed like a refugee and beating myself up for waiting 'til the last minute for thisthat'ntheotherthang.

But this year was a little different. And I think part of that was due to trying out some new traditions, instead of stubbornly sticking with the old. (It also helped immensely that we were staying put this year. Last year's cross-country trek with a 3-year-old and a feverish infant was just the merriest little sprig of Christmas joy that anyone could hope for!)

1) Secret Santa
Years ago, my mom suggested to my (then) family of four that we should do a pollyanna. "WHAAAT!?!" we all screamed and raged, like she had suggested sacrificing the cat for Christmas dinner. "HOW DARE YOU, CHRISTMAS CRAPPER!!!????" But after a few years, it seemed to make sense (a mortgage and two kids will do that to you.) And soon after, NR's family followed suit. So instead of trying to figure out the perfect present for Cousin Cathy whom you see (maybe) once a year, we receive *one* person to shop for, an agreed-upon budget, and a list of helpful ideas for gifts. Headaches and guessing games averted. Thank you, Baby Jesus.

2) Planning Ahead
On December 26th of last year, the Teege started composing this year's Christmas list. By December 3rd of this year, we called it a day and decided it was time for Santa to get down to business. We asked my folks to babysit on a Saturday evening and attacked Toys 'R Us with a very specific, very researched list in hand. (And guess what--most of the Black Friday deals were still on. So there really is no reason to get up at 2 a.m. and fight all the other wacky jacks in line at the big box stores.) By the end of the night, Santa was all done, and we could calm down a bit for the rest of December. Plus, we made it into a date night by starting off with a dinner at Maggiano's. New tradition? Definitely.

3) Mass in the City
A few years back, my sister invited us to Christmas Eve Mass at St. Joseph's University for something different. It was beautiful (and of course, being presided over by a Jesuit, entertaining AND meaningful.) We thought it would be nice to go again, but they only had an 8 p.m. service...kind of impossible with rugrats. So we decided to try the Children's Mass at Old St. Joe's Church in downtown Philly. The church was gorgeous, the music adorable (the Children's Choir sang), and we got to sit right next to the nativity scene, which my children are obsessed with. Kelly kept wrestling herself out of NR's arms to stomp right up to the manger and proclaim "BABYJESUSBABYJESUSBABYJESUS!" while Teege asked where Baby Jesus' menorah was (perfectly valid question). On the way home, we listened to Christmas carols and got to see Boathouse Row all lit up on the Schuykill. Perfect way to end the day before scurrying off to bed.

4) Macy's Light Show
When I was a young pup, my city-born-and-raised dad was all about jetting around downtown on public transportation, taking me to his old haunts (a favorite trip was going to the magic shop at the Bourse, with a quick stop for nonpareils at the candy store.) I feel like I've failed so far at showing NR and the kids the same sights, so I suggested taking the train down to Macy's one day to see the annual Christmas Light Show and Dickens Village. Well, the train wasn't working (so we paid $30 to park) and the line for Dickens turned out to be 45 minutes, but it was still a fun, new thing for our little family to try, and it's on the agenda for next year as well.

Don't get me wrong...I love old traditions as much as the next gal. But I also think it's important, when you start your own family, to branch out and try new ones as well.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed 2012 to all.