Suggestions to stop the holiday madness

December 22, 2003

I have a few suggestions for stopping the holiday maddness.

My No. 1 rule: stop fantasizing. The media, magazines and movies, along with our childhood memories, increase our expectations (if the memories were pleasant ones).

The frantic pace begins even earlier now. Christmas decorations are on display in some stores the week before Halloween. Advertisements in magazines and television show pictures of healthy, wealthy families baking cookies, trimming the tree, singing harmonious carols, opening beautifully wrapped gifts and sitting down to a perfectly set table laden with food.

Images of poverty, children waiting for a Santa that doesn't show up, a drunken father or the homeless in a food line, are not popular selling tools.


We tack on to our overloaded lifestyles an endless list of extra things to do, such as shopping for the perfect gift, decorating our homes and yards, wrapping presents, baking cookies and making five or six different kinds of candy because that's what Martha Stewart tells us is a good thing. Not to mention the cakes to bake, gingerbread houses to build, cards to sign and address, and casseroles and cheese balls to make for the parties at work and friends homes.

Don't forget church and choir practice, play practice and caroling, with more cookies and hot chocolate, too.

We no longer go through the woods and over the hills to grandma's house but we also are expected to go to the non-custodial parent's house, our step grandparents', and perhaps a great-grandparent or Aunt Ruth's.

Children can't possibly get as excited as we once did because they have Christmas every day. A banana, an orange, chocolate drops and a candy cane in a sock once a year can't compare with a hamburger meal with a plastic toy every week.

Oh, I almost forgot the snow! The white Christmas that we dream about was meant to go with the one-horse open sleigh, with bells that bobtail ring - whatever that means - not with scheduled air flights and interstate travel in the SUV.

My younger sister says that if you don't expect much, you don't get as disappointed.

I'm taking her advice this year, so I am ordering my cookies from the bakery and my ham from the deli, buying gift bags for the presents, buying a fiber optic tree (no lights or decorations), and having open house on Christmas. I hope all my children and step family members will drop in, but I am not going to expect them at a certain time or to be hungry.

Maybe this will help me have time to think about the real reason we celebrate.

Shirley Woods lives in Lancaster.|None***

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