Breaking My Addiction to Holiday “Stuff”

Durango sleeping in a pile of holiday wrapping paper
Durango sleeping in a pile of holiday wrapping paper

Hi, my name is Julie, and I’m a holiday addict. You know, the kind who can’t resist adorable Christmas ornaments, or holiday cards on clearance sale. The kind who has a ten-year supply of wire ribbon for wrapping presents and who starts listening to Christmas songs the day after Halloween. Yeah, one of those.

I think each of us forms our impression of what the holidays should be about during childhood. For us, there was a fairly elaborate procession of golf trophies and framed pictures being boxed and moved downstairs, and then a reverse procession of worn and familiar boxes of Christmas ornaments moving upstairs. We listened to Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing carols while we unwrapped decorations. It usually took most of the day, and I loved every minute of it, from the endless rebending of the artificial tree’s branches to unraveling miles of electric lights to crowning the thing with an ancient tinsel star.

I also witnessed my Mom going through her lengthy card list, making adjustments, endlessly signing and stamping card after card. I remember a tree absolutely swimming in a sea of presents, and stockings stuffed so full that they couldn’t hang on the mantel and had to instead lay on the floor. There was also the gigantic meal, the gathering of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and siblings, the midnight church service where the cousins got into trouble for singing Joy to the World in operatic voices or burning each other on accident during Silent Night with hot wax from the candles that were supposed to cast a reverent glow on the service.

Recalling it now, I think it’s no wonder this is my favorite season. And it’s also not too surprising that, from my desire to recreate these traditions with my own children, I put a fair emphasis on the trappings. My husband and I are not religious, so although charity is a part of the holidays for us, Jesus is just not. So we were faced with the dilemma of how to create traditions. In my twenties, I turned to oodles of holiday decor, elaborate holiday meals, and loads of baking.

Now in my thirties, with two children of my own, I want to simplify somewhat. Not just because the loads of crap (from ornaments enough to decorate 5 trees to miles of wrapping paper and ribbon to plastic stuff bought in the rush of post-Christmas sale browsing that even my holiday-crazed self thinks is totally tacky) take up too much room in the basement and is fairly bad for the environment, but because I want to slow down and enjoy the holidays instead of spending them in a frenzy of card signing, picture taking, decorating, and cooking.

Don’t worry, we still have two trees this year and I had my non-tree decorations up by Thanksgiving. So I’m not giving it all up. But as I announced yesterday, we’re not doing cards this year. We also quit buying wrapping paper and ribbon three years ago (full disclosure: I just used the end of my holiday paper this year and still have a ton of prefab holiday bags and pre-decorated boxes that will last a few more years), and I haven’t bought a single ornament or decoration for the past two years, although several have been made for me.

I feel good about these changes, and do not think they’re detracting from my children’s enjoyment of the season, or their understanding of the joy of being with family and giving to others. They caroled with us last week when we collected donations for the local Food Bank, and they understand that we are fortunate to have enough this holiday season, and that many others are not as fortunate. They have not only happily received gifts, but have made gifts for family and friends, and have watched me knit gifts like a crazed woman for friends and family.

So am I still the crazy Christmas lady who wears a light-up headband with Reindeer antlers while I decorate the house? Yes. Do I still have enough Santa ornaments to share with all my friends? Yes. Do I still plan to bake oodles of cookies and pies, and spend the holidays eating and drinking far too much with family and friends? Absolutely. But I think I’ve broken my addiction to holiday “stuff” this year, while at the same time navigating the murky waters of creating a secular, but still memorable, holiday experience for my children.

3 thoughts on “Breaking My Addiction to Holiday “Stuff”

  1. My name is Deena and I am also an addict. I have WAY TOO MUCH in WAY TOO MANY BINS (cleverly color-coded by holiday of course). The smell of pine and all-spice set adrift the sales is enough for me to go crazy…but this year, I did not participate in Black Friday and I am not intending on going out the day after Christmas. And I am proud to say that I haven’t purchased one decoration this season. It’s a hard road but one that is necessary. And with that, I will remember that you, friend, are struggling with this vicious addiction as well….

  2. The old tinsel star didn’t make it up on my tree this year. I put the angel that I made while you kids were little, but never got to use because you and John wanted the old star.
    I haven’t made lots of cookies this year (but I am going to make some today). But we are having our “egg stuff” Sunday with everyone (except the Artz part of the family). We’ll miss you. All the other “stuff” is out except for the wall hangings. I didn’t want to put nail holes in my newly painted walls yet. Next year, they will be put up. The two kittens have wreaked havoc with the tree and I’ve had to rehang many ornaments and tinsel. I still plan on going to Christmas Eve service (Jesus’ birthday, after all, is why we have Christmas.) Love Mom

  3. I just have to tease you a little bit because you have more Christmas “crap” than anyone I’ve ever met. I love it!

    I love this season so much because it’s an antidote to winter. The world starts getting cold, barren, austere and empty and we quick fill it up with warmth and color and light. January and February are painfully “empty” for me and I wish we could continue the warmth and clutter of Christmas all through winter.

    My issue with Christmas isn’t stuff (we have very little stuff, most of it from Tim’s childhood), but with time. I resent having to spend time with people who can’t be bothered to get together any other time of year. There are SO MANY demands on our time this time of year I feel the need to declutter celebrations so I have time for real joy. And then people call me the Grinch 😉

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