I know “quiet quitting” is all the rage these days—with everything from work to the holidays. But that’s simply not an option for me. Last year’s Christmas left a lot to be desired. I was still in a postpartum fog having given birth just two months prior. My husband and I were living with my in-laws in the midst of a failed home-buying search in Ohio. And to top it all off, our Christmas tree, along with all of our special ornaments, was buried deep within our storage unit, somewhere between furniture and household appliances. We made the most out of it, but this year, I knew I wanted to go all out.
Maybe it’s because it took multiple IVF cycles for our daughter to arrive. Maybe it’s because my perfectionist tendencies want her to have the most magical Christmas ever (inflation be damned). Maybe it’s because for a couple of months out of the year lighting up the Christmas tree every night brings me joy and let’s be real, we could all use a lot more of that year round, but especially right about now.
The end-of-year holiday trifecta of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas gives me such a rush and I was determined to live it up this year. Starting with a tailgate theme for trunk-or-treat at our daughter’s daycare; followed by having two craft cocktails for Friendsgiving and two seasonal pies (which I may or may not have paid $40 to have delivered from the South Shore of Chicago to Evanston via Uber because of a scheduling mixup) for four and a half people; and now preparing for Christmas.
As I’ve previously written, historically I’ve waited until the turkey has been carved before putting up Christmas decorations and singing along to Mariah Carey. But a post-Thanksgiving family trip to Hawaii struck a desire within me to return home to a Christmas wonderland, so on the Sunday before Thanksgiving my husband took the tree and all our decorations out of the garage and we got to work. I even made a last-minute Target run before we set off to warmer temps in an attempt to find cute little knick knacks to adorn our fireplace and a stocking for our daughter (side note: why are monogrammed V stockings so hard to find?!).
My parents always made Christmas special for me and my sister, complete with an annual trip to a Christmas tree farm and handwritten letters from Santa (in calligraphy, no less!). I even remember one year there were snow-covered footsteps from the Big Man himself in our living room (footsteps I would later learn were created using the boots from my dad’s firefighter turnout gear). You could say doing the most runs in the family.
After all, I did host a Beyoncé Renaissance-themed party for my 35th birthday with a disco glam dress code so that my friends and I could dance to the album on repeat all night long (and in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m a Scorpio). And prior to that I arranged a family photo shoot complete with a smash cake session to celebrate our daughter’s birthday, which would also double as the photos for our Christmas cards—another family tradition I inherited from my parents and intend to keep going now that I have my own family.
“For humans, there is something soothing to our nervous system about ritual, routine, and familiarity,” says Courtney Cope, licensed marriage and family therapist and senior manager of clinical operations at BetterHelp. “Put a familiar Christmas movie on, give us a sugar cookie, and a cup of hot cocoa and we are likely to feel good feelings simply because we have been conditioned to feel those emotions at an earlier age—regardless of if we actually like the movie, still enjoy sugar cookies, or even like hot cocoa now as an adult.”
The sense of nostalgia that overcomes me every holiday season is due in large part to our brains’ which is a “cognitive bias that makes us recall the past as a more positive time that it likely was,” explains Cope.
Our daughter doesn’t quite know what to make of all the hubbub right now—she is only 13 months. But she likes to look at the lights on the Christmas tree and I enjoy pointing out the meaning behind each of our special ornaments, knowing one day she’ll add her own…and may also keep up the Thompson family tradition of doing the most.
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