Not even the bathrooms were spared; for years on the towel bars I placed alternating red and green washcloths boasting embroidered poinsettias and the word "joy" in green and red plaid letters.
Wreath on the front door, back door, basement door, bathroom window. A circle of foot-high, handpainted wooden Santas in the breakfast room; garland hanging from mirrors in rooms throughout the house; the fireplace mantle draped in spray-painted twigs, berry-scented candles and fake fruit.
The outside of the house I festooned with garlands and lights, twig reindeer that fell like Bambi from a shot when the wind was brisk. A wooden basket just inside the front door with Santa in a sleigh carved in the handle is where I placed the scads of Christmas cards I get every year -- many from people I don't even like anymore but haven't the inclination to inform.
I wore Christmas sweaters in public -- two kinds! -- years before it was acceptable to host ugly Christmas sweater parties and pose for photos wearing them. But I never did wear the red velvet ballet flats with jingle bells attached; I always felt sporting such footwear would make me akin to a cat announcing its arrival into a room.
No more. I am a recovering Christmas Crazy.
Certainly I am no Scrooge, but I have considerably toned down my Christmas madness in the past few years. No more weekends spent making apple butter to place in mason jars or dozens of loaves of banana/raspberry bread to give to neighbors, teachers, friends. This year, when I put up the fake tree in the living room right after Thanksgiving -- not before -- I fashioned it with gold ribbon garland, white lights and three ornaments each one of my grown sons made in pre-school. I kept the other 6 million carefully-selected and gifted ornaments in the Rubbermaid bins and put them back in the basement. I felt relief.
I keep shopping to one or two trips to buy a few gifts for a finite number of family and close friends. I do not serve red and green food. I do not have Christmas carols playing in the background all day and night. I have only a few strands of lights on the evergreens outside.
So while substituting Xmas may seem like a polite global, tolerant solution, it only makes the hard core bunch more likely to send you a YouTube video of a flash mob singing religious songs in a mall. Yes, I do believe, but I do not affirm that sprinkling the rooftops with silver glitter is what the whole shebang is about anyway. There was no glitter in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.
It's not that I am suddenly so zen about overcommercializing a religious holiday or feel all this holly jolly is a genuine waste of time. I do love the holidays -- time off, of course, and time with my sons -- and I am hosting Christmas Eve for my growing immediate family: 30 of us. It's just that getting neck deep in this condensed, velvet-embossed hysteria seems so newly ludicrous. What exactly about Black Friday is worth getting crushed over? And why in the world would I wear felt reindeer antlers that sing or put a wreath on the grill of my car?
Perhaps it is my age. My sons are eons past believing in Santa -- and yes, when they were very small I did get away with buying their gifts in front of them. I calmly informed Weldon, Brendan and Colin I was mailing the presents to the North Pole so Santa would have a prototype to copy and bring down our chimney Christmas Eve. Even as the words came out of my mouth, I was stunned they believed me.
I no longer can spare the time, money, desire or hopefulness to cram a lifetime of high expectations into two 24-hour days from Dec. 24 through Dec. 25. So I am stepping back from the false notion of nostalgia and admitting my addiction to the holiday crazies. I plan to avoid the Christmas Cliff, thus eliminating exhaustion, insolvency and regret. I hope I can save some of you from the same.
So I am following my own 12-step program. Borrowed heavily from the script of Alcoholics Anonymous with sincere appreciation and no intended disrespect, these tips may save you too from going over the Christmas Cliff. I suggest you grab some egg nog (non-alcoholic if you must) and 12-step yourself away from the brink.
1. We admitted we are powerless over the looming Christmas Cliff, and that our lives as a result had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that the realization that the annual percentage rate of interest on our credit cards would render us broke, and thus refrained from charging what we could not afford would restore us to sanity.
3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the notion of the holidays as a time of togetherness without madness as we understood it.
4. We made a searching and fearless inventory of all our holiday paraphernalia and decided not to buy one more thing. Not even a candle.
5. We admitted to ourselves and to anyone who follows us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn that we would not this year fall over the Christmas Cliff.
7. We humbly ask our friends to remove from our closets all clothing with the likenesses of reindeers, elves, Santas, Christmas trees or snowflakesand give said garments to Goodwill.
8. We will make a list of all the persons we have given the wrong gift to over the years and promise to cause no more harm by purchasing generic gift cards that can be used as cash instead.
9. We made direct amends to people wherever possible, except those who stopped inviting us to holiday parties long ago.
10. We have continued to take inventory of our behaviors around the holidays, and when we noticed we became too obnoxiously festive, promptly admitted it.
11. We seek through prayer, meditation and Facebook and Pinterest postings the awareness of our shortcomings and ask for the courage to carry out even-temperedness at least through Jan. 1.
12. Having had a rude awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to all Christmas Cliffhangers and to practice these principles in all our affairs from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day.
So please use my former folly as a reminder of what not to do. Post, tweet, pass them along. With the fortitude of these steps firmly in place, I wish a somewhat happy, stressless holiday to all and to all a good night. And if not, there is always next year.
For more by Michele Weldon, click here.
For more on holiday stress, click here.