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Post-Holiday, Then and Now

14 comments | December 27th, 2011

(story by Mir, from WouldaCouldaShoulda)

When I was a kid, Christmas was a Very Big Deal Indeed. This is actually pretty funny when you consider that we were Jewish (and not very religious), but my parents were willing to buy into the hoopla for us kids. We had a lot of plants in the house, and even some sort of potted pine in the corner of the living room. That became the de facto "Christmas tree," and on Christmas morning there was always a couple of gifts from Santa waiting for us beneath the pine.

We, of course, always went to the mall sometime before the holiday to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what to bring us. It was all very logical that way.

The build-up to the big day always seemed very suspenseful. First there were those last days of school before vacation—they always seemed to drag on and on—and then it was impossible to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. But finally the big morning would come and there it was: Our Santa present.

I remember several of those gifts. We usually asked for something electronic, and of course back then any sort of hand-held electronic game was a one-trick pony and laughable by today's Nintendo DS standards. One year my brother got a Coleco Football game and I got a Barbie Fashion Head. I'd been dying for the Barbie, naturally, but I was terribly jealous of my brother's game. The next year I tested out several options at the local toy store before asking for something called Safari Hunt where you had to move your little electronic "cage" around the screen and hit the button to close it when you captured an animal. Not very PC, I suppose.

The point here, however (I swear I have a point), is that the buildup was always greater than what came after. We opened the presents, we were excited, we played with them, and then… the inevitable letdown. It was over and everything was the same.

In young adulthood and even many years of what was supposed to be my mature (ha!) adult years, Christmas had a similar is-that-all-there-is feeling, for various reasons. A holiday that's supposed to be all about blessings has a way of casting everything you're sure you lack into sharp relief in years when you're not very happy. There were years I was lonely; years I wanted children I was sure I'd never have; years I mourned my broken marriage; years that the future seemed impossibly bleak. And each time, it felt like the whole world was happy, and I was the only one left wanting more.

As I sat in a house not my own and listened to my children playing with their cousins, this year, the day after Christmas, I felt nothing but content. The carnage of Christmas still lay all over the house—stray bits of wrapping and presents not yet gathered up—but I realized that being the grown-up in this scenario is actually a pretty good deal. I care very little about the "stuff" and appreciate the company of and time with family.

This is the first year I don't have even one child who still believes in Santa. I worried that would take the magic out of the holiday, and that somehow it would be a letdown either for them or for me. Instead, it's been just the opposite; I feel like it's taken me half a lifetime to find the magic in just having this time to spend together. And maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm not seeing the post-Christmas crash in my kids, either. I think they're having fun, and most of it doesn't even involve their various loot.

Whatever you celebrated—or didn't—this year, I hope you were lucky enough to feel blessed and loved. And if for some reason you didn't, well… keep the faith. I never thought I'd be here, and that makes it sweeter.
 

14 comments

  • Laura (a loyal lurker)

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    I’m so glad for you that you’ve reached this wonderful place. I haven’t yet, but the fact that you have is encouraging.

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  • Tracy B

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    I have always felt this way…all the shopping, planning, packing and wrapping for weeks NOT to mention all the cooking and within a few hours, poof..over–done—and nothing left to do but to put all the decorations, tree, lights, etc. away until next year. And clean in the kitchen for hours…putting up the fine china and washing every pot and pan in the house. This year I had ALL my kids and grandkids over…AT THE SAME TIME. It was magical and I (for the first time in a very long time) felt the magic of Christmas and now I know how truly blessed I am! Happy New Year, Mir!!!!

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  • dad

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    Congratulations on your happiness. Cherish and take pride in it.
    It’s the best present you could give me.

    Your children may be beyond Santa Claus but your dad will never be.

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  • Beth A.

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    I have found the “content after Christmas” feeling the last couple years, but really relished it this year. I enjoyed watching my sons open their stuff and say, “No more. I’m playing.” At that point, the adults would open some stuff…then they’d open a couple more things and so on. My 6 year old was showing some serious signs of greed and selfishness this year (“I want that. and this and that and this” and he was constantly worried that he wasn’t going to get enough)…anyways, at one point he said, “Guys, I don’t need anything else. Really. I got everything I could have asked for. I’m just going to go play now.” I was so proud of him. Now we’ll see if he still feels like that when I tell him we’re going to purge some of his old toys. :)

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  • Aimee

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    I love this. This is the first year in a while I haven’t had the post-Christmas blahs, and I would like to think that it’s because I’ve been working really hard on being more grateful for what I have, and being a kinder, more patient person. It’s a battle, every day, but this feeling? Totally worth it.

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  • Amy

    Posted on December 27, 2011

    Years ago (pre-kid) my husband and I decided to stop traveling across many states to be with our parents, grandparents, cousins, etc on Christmas. It was too stressful trying to see everyone in two days. We were sucked into gift exchanges with cousins we barely knew anymore. There was this very heavy, but still unspoken, bartering between the two of us about how much time we got to spend with each of our families. It was crazy.

    And then we just stopped. We don’t go back home for Christmas anymore. We live in a beautiful house on the coast of Maine and I can’t imagine anything better than spending Christmas right here. Just our little family of three. This year was particularly magical–our daughter is five and SO much fun. Christmas Day was pretty blissfully peaceful. We had unexpected snow that made the woods incredibly gorgeous.

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  • Crymson

    Posted on December 28, 2011

    Dearest Mir,
    I hope you cherish your Dad in a way that he deserves. What a wonderful man he seems to be.
    I found contentment (or maybe it found me) this year also. My nearly grown daughter however is still struggling with the holiday let-downs.

    It makes me so sad to see her so sad. Indeed, one must discover one’s own happiness but a mother’s heart breaks in the process.

    I hope you enter the New Year with the same sense of peace.

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  • Arnebya @whatnowandwhy

    Posted on December 28, 2011

    I’m sad to say I have the post-day sadness. It’s not really the holiday. I feel loved and grateful and blessed for all that I have: a home, a healthy family, my own health. But like usual, the day came and went, presents were opened and cast aside. We decided to scale back and I know we’re all the better for it. The girls got just what they asked for. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts but my SIL got me exactly what I wanted. So why? Why is the letdown feeling still there? It never fully felt like Christmas to me to begin with. And I am most certainly not ready to start a new year, surely not feeling this way. I’m sorry to be such a downer. It’s just where I am.

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    • MCS

      Posted on December 30, 2011

      I do not know if I get what you’re feeling exactly, but for my own reasons, I feel the same way.

      Your word choice as interesting and maybe can help point you in the right direction for figuring out why you do feel as you do. You describe yourself as feeling “letdown”. Letdown usually follows missed expectations. What were yours?

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  • Angela

    Posted on December 28, 2011

    I was feeling pretty Grinchy this year in the lead-up to Christmas. The actual time spent with our families, who are nearby, was really nice and very special for us, and I know I’m blessed. We scaled back this year as well and that in itself took alot of the pressure off. My husband’s been out of a job for a few years and money is tight, so spending our bill-money on a bunch of hyped-up presents is just not an option. I ended up shopping at an antiques/collectibles shop and got a bunch of good things for very cheap, and had to repaint one of the items, which was really fun and made me feel good about the gift. I’m relieved it’s over. I really wish for some actual traditions/rituals to participate in, but everything seems to be highly commercialized and polished up for “consumers”, even the church services.

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  • JMH

    Posted on December 29, 2011

    I loved Christmas this year. We do the extended family stuff the weekend BEFORE Christmas, so Christmas is just *us*. The kids wake us up early, we open all the gifts from Santa and then we stop and eat breakfast. That gives the kids time to explore their treasures and it gives my husband and I time to grab a cup of coffee 😉 Then, we open our gifts to each other. It slows down the gift opening and makes it last. My favorite part of the day is when my kids get soo excited to give their gifts to everyone. They love the giving part of Christmas and that makes my heart sing

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  • Midj

    Posted on December 29, 2011

    This year we made the decision to stay at a different sibling’s house and it made all the difference in the world. The last two years we stayed home, instead of driving 9 hours, because we have just felt overwhelmed. This Christmas was the best we’ve had in years. Funny how the same people are more tolerable when there is time to decompress between events. We had a fantastic six day vacation that actually felt like one. Love and laughter all around and no fights for the first time in our adult lives (and I’m 50 years old…) I’m so glad you found the peace, Mir. I know it’s been a tough year. Hugs to you and yours,

    ~~Mary~~

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