The Commerce Journal

November 30, 2012

Finding time to enjoy the holidays

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — The holidays can be stressful. There are the preparations, the decorations, the cooking, the cleaning. There is dinner with mom’s family, brunch with dad’s family, with your husband’s family, with your stepwife’s family. Relatives are spread across the country. It’s easy to feel spread thin.

Everything is a commercial today. After all, Santa Claus is red because Coca-Cola wanted to sell more beverages. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Buy, buy, buy. Get a turkey. Listen to Christmas music, put up Christmas decorations. There are expectations to meet, children and parents to please. And putting up a Christmas tree? Unless it’s fake, it can be a hassle.

Some people hate the holidays with a passion. It’s too much work, too much stress. And the January credit card bill is enormous.

Others decide to make a political stand. It’s Christmas, not the religiously-sanitized phrase “the holidays.” It’s time to put Christ back into Christmas, they say emphatically. Christmas is about the Jesus coming to Earth, not about new iPads. They still probably want presents, though.

All have good points.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are certainly about eating good food, spending too much money, visiting relatives (even ones we can’t stand) and spending way too much free time decorating. It’s about gaining weight and taking time off.

People recognize how the hustle and bustle of the holidays brings out the crazy in each of us. Movies are made encouraging us to slow down, metaphorically smell the roses and take joy in our family and friends. Perhaps they too have a point.

The holidays for me are a special time because of traditions. In 21st century America, we don’t have a lot of traditions. One of the side effects of America being a “melting pot” is we became disconnected from our heritage as our forefathers assimilated.

But my family has a tradition, and even though it’s similar to millions of other families across the globe, it has its own touches that make it unique.

Each year, we get our new Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. We bring it home, set it up, and put the lights on it. Our parents get me and my two brothers a new Christmas ornament each year. And this year, as I put it on the tree, I realized I’d done this before about a dozen times. The same decorations, the same moves. Like an annual dance I’ve come to memorize.

That is comforting, because each year brings its own triumphs and struggles. Each year I become a little older, and a  little more experienced. I’ve graduated from college now. I have a “real job” and grown-up stuff like car payments. I used to get up at 6 a.m. Christmas morning and beg my mom to go through our stockings. Now, it takes a concerted effort from my brothers to get me up before 11 a.m. Some of the magic of Christmas has dissipated.

But when I put that first ornament on the tree, carefully looking for just the right spot, inconspicuous yet meaningful, I can be a kid again, in his Dallas Cowboy pajamas, so excited he could barely sleep the night before.

And, to me, that’s what Christmas is really about.