Holiday Expectations

By Tena Bastian

So it begins… the holiday season. That time of year when families come together, express their love for one another, share all that we are thankful for and look forward to in the year to come. It is the time of the year when we set all disagreements aside, set the table and come together in the name of tradition. It is when miracles happen, it’s when we venture out in search of the perfect gift because we know that the look on their faces will far outweigh the cost of time and money that we spent to make their dreams come true. It is the fire in the fireplace, the smell of roast turkey in the oven, the perfect dress for the party that we have been looking forward to all year. The tree, the lights, the music, the snow! Good friends, good  food, good times!  Let the festivities begin. Oh but wait one minute here…

The shopping, the grouchy people, the long lines, the empty store shelves where the “perfect gift” should be but isn’t, the feuds between two family members that refuse to be in the same room together, the juggling between this house and that because of the in laws. Wrapping paper everywhere, timing the turkey, the new party dress is too tight because of all the cookies and pumpkin pie. What about the kids who wake you at the butt crack of dawn to open presents after you’ve been up too late helping Santa stuff stockings and address gift tags? The dog threw up because he got into the leftovers, the kids have a fever, you have hung all the outside lights only to realize that one bulb is blown and you have no idea which one it is. All you know is that none of them are working. Suddenly the holidays become something that you strive to survive, not enjoy.

Some of our most vivid holiday memories are the catastrophes that have occurred over the years. Like the year we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner and the nephews proceeded to vomit all over Grandma’s new carpet. The year we lived in Florida and put the turkey in the oven and went to the beach. We came home 6 hours later to find we had forgotten to turn on the oven.  In this family a miracle is defined by no one being admitted in a hospital from Thanksgiving to New Years. I guess it is all in our perspective of the perfect holiday and the ability to admit that nothing is perfect.

The problems arise when we realize that our expectations of the holiday season sometimes far outweigh the actual events that transpire. I know this because I am the queen of expectations. I get an idea, a scenario in my head of how wonderful the holidays will be and when they don’t go as planned, I tend to panic and what transpires is a total meltdown. I know I should see it coming and prepare for it and yet every year, beginning with Thanksgiving and working its way through New year’s Day, I become a ticking time bomb that just keeps building until someone lights my fuse and BOOM!

I begin the holiday season by asking what everyone else wants to do and am met with “I don’t know yet” and “I’m not sure”. This continues until Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. Last year, a family member who shall remain nameless announced that she would do everything. This would be a year that we could just show up and have the perfect holiday. We were very busy with the kennel and it sounded like a gift from Heaven. That is until we set a time, arranged our entire schedule around it and she called the night before to move it up five or so hours. Not happening. So instead, seven of us were running around buying and cooking a Thanksgiving dinner last minute. 

So today is Sunday and Thanksgiving is four days away. I know some of you have already bought and wrapped all your Christmas presents and I hate you all. (kidding). I still haven’t bought a turkey and I still don’t know who is coming for Thanksgiving dinner and at what time. The details of Christmas are still very vague and two members of my family are not speaking. *Sigh*. So I woke this morning and after a lengthy conversation with my hubby about the holidays, we have decided that this year begins a new perspective on the holidays. The tick, tick, tick of my psychological bomb is quiet and things are about to change. He and I have decided that we are going to do our best to create a wonderful meal with all of the trimmings and announce to anyone who cares to come that dinner will be at 5:00 p.m. and that they are welcome. When they leave their shoes at the door, they will also leave all their baggage and disagreements because the holidays are not the time to try and reconcile differences. We will save that for February.

We will be spending this afternoon hanging outside lights since it will be unseasonably warm and we WILL plug them in and check them before they are hung. Christmas eve will be open for drinks (and I will be drinking!) and snack food and movies and Christmas day will be open as well. Dinner will be at 5 p.m. that day and we will be deciding the menu. The only expectation this year is that we all have an enjoyable holiday together. As for the crowds and the empty shelves and long lines, and various other holiday spoilers, I think it’s time to make a few changes. They are as follows:

1. Don’t drink and drive but definitely DO drink and shop on line.

2. Lower your expectations of yourself and others and keep the focus on what is important.

3. Find someone, anyone who is struggling more than you and help them out in the spirit of giving.

4. Learn to appreciate the little ones in your life because they grow up too quickly.

5. Wish a hardy “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” to anyone you encounter who is being grouchy and smile! It may be all they need.

6. There is a reason why it is called “Black Friday”, it is dark and evil so don’t get sucked into it.

7. Most importantly, look around you at the people in your life. Never take them for granted because they aren’t always going to be there.

8. Turn on some Christmas carols, crank them up really loud and dance. Be happy and enjoy the holidays. Be thankful for God’s grace and for each other.

From our family to yours… May you find peace and joy and love and create memories that will last a lifetime. Happy Thanksgiving.

 Tena Bastian at www.tenabastian.com