December 25 gets some serious fanfare, but as a mom, I prefer the overall Christmas season much more than the actual holiday.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day come with a lot of expectations, obligations, and stressful deadlines. Panic precedes leaving the house. Are all of the presents wrapped? Do we have all of the ingredients for the green beans and the queso we are supposed to bring to my parents’ house? Did we pack backup outfits for all three kids? Do we have enough bottles to get through the entire day? What time do we have to leave my aunt’s house to get to your mom’s house? AND WHERE ARE THE MATCHING BOWS?!
It’s a lot of work. The kids are overstimulated, the parents are exhausted, and the extended family may or may not be appreciative of what all went into getting there, albeit fifteen minutes late.
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had major expectations for the holidays. I enthusiastically bought my baby her “my first Christmas” jammies. I pictured carefully displaying the collection of perfectly curated, impossible-to-choke-on, non-glitter toys out under the tree. I imagined how everyone would gush over how little and cute she was. And it did kind of go like that. However, I didn’t anticipate collapsing onto any available couch, in between helicopter momming over her, as she crawled in non-baby-proofed dens. I assumed our baby’s first Christmas Day would be utter joy, but not some joy mixed in with utter exhaustion.
Two little girls later, I have altered my expectations accordingly. My girls’ Christmas dresses will match— God willing— but my house will be trashed in the process. We will probably grab some extra cookies from Uncle Matthew’s house in order to feed Santa on Christmas Eve. Santa won’t mind if we didn’t bake them ourselves, as long as the cookies are chocolate chip. Getting Mommy her caffeinated tea is worth being a few minutes late, for all involved. It’s okay if we don’t have a perfect family picture on the day of, as long as we take a few Snapchat videos.
Overall, it’s okay if actual Christmas Day isn’t the best part. The Christmas season is where it’s at. Starting on the weekend after Thanksgiving, our house will be beautifully decorated, and not yet completely destroyed. That’s when Christmas movies are constantly in a queue, contributing to the cozy vibes. During the month of December, the activities that are planned at leisure, not the obligation, are a blast to attend. If we manage to bake some Christmas cupcakes, bonus points! If not, no worries, because there is no one expecting any checkmark treats. During the Christmas season, any holiday activity is a new memory for the kids. New traditions, without expectations.
The only caveat to an obligation-free Christmas season is the inevitable Christmas card chore. Shopping for outfits, finding an affordable-ish photographer who is available on a date when my husband is in town, coordinating nap times around the session time— it’s a lot. In my experience, professional pictures are possible some years, and in other years, recent iPhone pictures also get the job done. Either way, it is required to select a Christmas card picture in a timely manner, when you factor in the Shutterfly shipping timeline.
Christmas cards aside, the Christmas season is the reason why we over-decorate the house, or so I tell my husband. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are usually a marathon. Some Christmas Days in years past have been more enjoyable than others, but the Christmas season has never disappointed, knock on wood.