Not too long ago, if you’d asked my opinion on the best time of the year, I would have said December and Christmas season with our kids without a second thought. I celebrate Christmas and have always loved the absolute magic and wonder of the season. Up until recently, it was lost on me how anyone couldn’t be totally enraptured by the holiday. I can’t get enough of the music, baked goods, or the elevated sense of joy that resonates around every corner. I always considered it to, truly, be the most wonderful time of the year.
When my husband and I began planning our family, I knew that passing on holiday traditions was one of the things I looked forward to most. Having grown up in a Roman Catholic, Italian-American household, Christmas, especially, was always fraught with traditions—my favorite being Christmas Eve Mass and Feast of the Seven Fishes prepared by my grandparents immediately following. My husband (who is majority German) was equally excited about sharing Christmas traditions tied to his own culture and childhood experiences—to illustrate, our “Elf on the Shelf” goes by the name of “Klaus.”
But then, last year, something strange happened. Celebrating Christmas for the first time as a mother of two, I found myself getting very tired and even wishing—to an extent—for December 25 to be over. My husband felt the same way. While we had a wonderful holiday with our two kids, the five weeks of all-Christmas-all-the-time that we initiated shortly after Thanksgiving felt like entirely too much. This year, we’ve decided to shake things up. This year, we’re limiting our Christmas season to two weeks prior.
Limiting The Christmas Season
So, what do I mean by “limiting?” Let’s be clear—I’m not talking about Grinch or Luther Crank-level limitation. I’m sure I’ll start listening to Christmas music in my car and home office shortly after Thanksgiving, and begin shopping for gifts in November. But many other agenda items will be put on hold until mid-December. Particularly those that my children are exposed to.
For instance, we’ll head to the tree farm two weeks prior to Christmas and any decor that feels “Christmas-y” (such as my extensive nutcracker collection) will make its appearance at the same time. Cookie baking will commence shortly after, alongside wrapping, Christmas movie viewing, and the playing of aforementioned Christmas music loudly in our house for the children to dance and sing along to.
In short, we’re shortening Christmas celebrations and exposure within our household. Here’s why:
A Long Christmas Season is Exhausting
This one probably goes without saying for many reading along. The holidays are joyous, but they are also incredibly exhausting—especially if you’re a mom. Unlike Santa’s elves, we don’t have magical abilities to aid us in our treat making, home decorating, schedule planning (holiday parties, concerts, and gatherings add up), gift shopping and wrapping, and all of the other responsibilities that fall to parents (particularly moms) during the Christmas season with kids. Last year, my husband and I kept the hype going for our two-year-old (and our newborn, though she didn’t know it) for a solid month, and by the time Christmas hit, we were bone tired. While we did have a newborn contributing to our exhaustion, the self-inflicted responsibility to make every day magical was just simply too much for too long.
Christmas is Overstimulating
My children are young—it doesn’t take much to get them excited. Normally, this is really great. I love that simple things (such as a trip to the grocery store or time spent baking cookies) puts them in a really happy mood. But, being excitable is a double-edged sword. While the prospect of Santa, the interior explosion of glittering decorations, and the same selection of movies and music on repeat is joyous for a short time. Living it day-in and day-out for weeks (or even months, for some) is simply too much for my kids to handle. And I get it—it’s honestly too much for me, too.
As a parent, I’ve learned that when my kids are overstimulated they’re more prone to temper tantrums, meltdowns, and general unhappiness. And, as a parent, I want to avoid this situation. I personally believe it’s my job to set my kids up for success. For me, overstimulating them with Christmas for weeks on end doesn’t feel fair to them.
Shortening the Season Will Make it More Special
There’s something to be said about limiting celebrations. If you watched The Santa Clauses on Disney+ last December, then you might remember a critical lesson driven home between the lighthearted banter and whimsical scenery: Christmas is not meant to be “every day.” While much of this theme was inspired by the urge to possess material items and our population’s love of online shopping, I also believe that overindulgence isn’t always material in nature. It’s not just waiting to open gifts. It’s also waiting to display that sentimental decoration that used to belong to your grandmother, or make that traditional cookie recipe that you only bake this time of year. My hope is that shortening our Christmas timeline will make it more special for everyone in our family.
I Seek to Teach My Children the Importance of Patience
It’s safe to say most of us are familiar with the phrase “Good things come to those who wait.” In addition to building anticipation and making the season more special, I also believe that shortening our Christmas season will teach our kids a valuable lesson in patience. Today, our society is collectively trained in instant gratification. With social media notifications, online shopping, and a worldwide collection of knowledge just a Google search away, teaching and practicing patience is becoming more and more difficult.
I want to instill patience in my children because I believe it’s still a valuable lesson. Sometimes, we don’t get what we want exactly when we want it. That’s a concept I want my children to be familiar with, because I believe it will serve them well in life. In my experience, patience can help us cope when things don’t work out exactly as we envision and also help us feel generally more content.
A Shorter Season is More Traditional
Growing up, Christmas wasn’t its own “season,” per se. It was a holiday, with a few simple events (such as holiday chorus concerts, a day spent decorating the tree, and an afternoon frosting sugar cookies) leading up to it. Sometimes, for me personally, the modern approach to celebrating Christmas feels a little overindulgent. It’s far removed from the Christmases I (as well as my husband) experienced growing up. Maybe I’m overly nostalgic, but I’d love for my children to grow up with a more traditional approach to the holidays.
Finding Joy in Doing What’s Best for Your Own Family
I promise you I’m far from reaching Ebenezar Scrooge status. I love holidays (really, just about any holiday) more than the average person. While a younger version of myself would have scoffed at the idea of having a shorter Christmas season with kids, my present day self finds the idea thrilling. In fact, since having this conversation with my husband, I have felt a small but palpable burden lift from my shoulders and I am noticeably more excited about the season ahead.
At the end of the day (as with all things in parenthood), how a family chooses to celebrate the holidays is an entirely unique and personal decision—we all have to do what feels right for us. So, if celebrating Christmas season with your kids nonstop from the morning of November 1 through the ball drop on New Year’s Eve is your style, I commend you. Go all out and enjoy every moment! But if you, too, are feeling rundown from your holiday to-do list, or are looking to adhere to a more traditional style of celebrating the most wonderful time of the year, just know that you’re far from alone.
True holiday magic lies in health and happiness—and we should, all of us, feel empowered to cultivate those priorities as we best see fit. Whatever your family’s Christmas season might look like, I hope it is, very truly, the most wonderful time of your year.