Making A List, Checking It Twice

writing-listEvery holiday season, I like to make a list of up to five activities that I commit to make happen during the month of December.  Last year – aka the stressful year from hell – only one item appeared on my mental list: decorate the Christmas tree. (As you may remember, we had struggled to assemble the pre-lit tree, but never got around to hanging ornaments on it.) 
We finally decorated the tree the 24th, albeit with distracted minds/hearts. We also managed to knock off a few other holiday activities like send out Christmas cards, but they were “extras” as they were not on the official list. Christmas had a different vibe last year, but I was satisfied with the celebration – and all because we managed to decorate that darn tree.
I began chopping Christmas traditions off my “must do” list the year my father died. I could not gather the energy or interest to send out holiday cards, so I didn’t. And I  discovered the world continued to spin on its axis just fine.  
With this scaled-down approach, our holiday traditions ebb and flow depending on what’s going on in the world.  Some of our activities have included: 
  • Taking a day off from work to shop with Wise Hubby while our young kids were in school.
  • Getting dressed up (tux/long gown) for his firm’s annual blow-out holiday party.
  • Making several dozen Christmas cookies to share with teachers and neighbors.
  • Crafting Christmas letters and/or designing annual photo cards.
  • Attending a friend’s annual Advent service.
  • Hosting a low-key Christmas Day dinner for the few family members still in town on the 25th. 
  • Hanging a lit wreath on the picture window.
  • Attending a Christmas concert.
  • Watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

This year only two of these traditions are making my short list. We may end up doing more, but, again, those will be extra and not essential to whether or not we “did Christmas right” this year.

According to W. Somerset Maugham, “Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” I like that sentiment! 

What traditions will you be following (or not) this holiday season?


  • Anne Says:
    11-30-2010 09:32:18

    Elaine – Thanks for taking the pressure off. I’m amazed by all my neighbors that fully decorated their homes over Thanksgiving weekend. Hopefully we’ll be able to do most of our decorating next weekend. We’re traveling to Maine one weekend to hear my father, who is in the Bagaduce Chorale in Maine, sing in their Christmas concert. We always make cranberry bread and I hope to get to cookies – but don’t always make it. I’d love to wrap up shopping shortly so I don’t need to think about it, and can enjoy the last couple of weeks doing other things – but somehow that never happens!

  • Kathleen Says:
    11-30-2010 12:30:39

    What? You’re not even going to tell us what two items make your short list? This year my list includes getting (and hopefully decorating without any shouting matches) a live tree. We’ve had an artificial one for the past few years, and it’s starting to look a little worse for wear, so I’m ready to go the real route again. We’ve also bought tickets for “Ice” at National Harbor to take the girls to on Dec. 22 after school, for the official start of the holiday vacation. Still up in the air about cards. I think those two are enough. Thanks for letting us all give up the guilt!

  • Sabina Says:
    12-1-2010 16:24:35

    Making a list of things you have to do is the best way to go in life.

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