Now that we have broken into the Frantic Season, we thought we might share a few thoughts with you.
The first and, in our opinion, the most important is, TANSTAAPH. This nod to Econ 101 stand for – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Perfect Holiday. It can’t be done. Human beings, events, acts of nature, etc all conspire to screw up our efforts to build the perfect experience. Trust me, the turkey will be under done, the mashed potatoes will be lumpy, the dog will urinate in the living room in front of your assembled guests (Yes, this actually happened one year – and the dog was a Great Pyrenees), etc. Don’t strive to have a perfect holiday. Strive to have a pleasant one.
A word or two about striving to have a pleasant holiday. Don’t try to kill yourself. Remember that while you are slaving away and acting like a martyr, everyone else is watching you do it. That either makes them feel entitled to impose further on you (in which case, they should not get a repeat invitation) or it makes them feel guilty; which has a decidedly deleterious effect on their enjoyment of things. This is absolutely counterproductive to the goal of making a pleasant holiday.
We suggest keeping things simple. This is something that isn’t always easy. We want to show people how important they are to us by preparing the dishes they want, getting the ideal present, decorating the house for the season, and so forth. So, wherever possible, cut corners.
For example, you don’t have to put out every decoration unto the third and fourth generations. Consider the stratagem of museums. They take great pains to highlight special events. Thus, maybe this year, Great-grandma’s papier-mâché replica of her village in the old country will be the focal point of your holiday decoration. It doesn’t need to be overwhelmed or lost by including every other decoration in your accumulated store. And it certainly doesn’t need to be augmented by new baubles that will only detract from its uniqueness. Set it off with greenery, bows, candles, and other simple accents that will compliment it. Then carry those simple adornments throughout.
Preparing food comes with similar caveats. Remember that holiday meals grow exponentially. The simplest intentions get seriously out of control and we end up with enough food to feed an invading army. Also remember that the day of the big gathering is not the time to discover whether you can make Yorkshire Pudding or not. Make a test batch of new dishes ahead of time. If they turn out well, consider freezing and re-warming them on the big day. Most holiday sides like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other casserole dishes do freeze and reheat quite well. This also takes a lot of pressure off of you, thereby enhancing the “pleasant” factor for everyone.
The bottom line is this; don’t over-do. Perfection exists only in the imagination. The real world is a bit more flawed. Those idyllic images of holiday bliss fashioned by Hollywood and Hallmark take tons of set dressers, dialogue coaches, and a supporting staff that most of us just can’t tap into. Plus, life is not scripted. It happens whether we want it to or not. They key to a happy holiday season is simply this. Remember the messages of hope, renewal, and rejuvenation. It’s not about how much money you spend, how much food you serve, how elaborately you decorate. It’s about the peace you build inside yourself and in others.