I've never really cared for the holidays. Once I outgrew the excitement about the glut of stuff under the tree on Christmas morning, I just kind of lost interest. There are a zillion reasons I could give for not caring for this time of year, weather and light (or lack thereof) chief among them. I'm not a winter person, and I realize that's the very reason we do all this in the winter--to cheer us up about it all--but for me, it has an opposite effect.
I think the main reason over the years that I have come to be so Scroogey in my holiday attitude is my disgust with late capitalism and its many empty promises. Let's face it, in the Western world, the winter holidays (Christmas is the main one in my family) mean stuff, stuff, stuff. Retailers put out the lights and the candy and play the muzak earlier and earlier every year because December accounts for roughly 50% of retail sales every year and they are hopeful of extending that boon as far out from December as they can.
I'm too cynical to listen when people talk about simple holidays and how the "true meaning" of whatever is whatever. Whatever. We all know the true meaning of it all is the economy--will it pick up this holiday season? Being laid off this time of year is worse than being laid off any other time of year. We donate gifts for children to charity because we have come to believe that the holidays mean gifts and children are shortchanged of holiday happiness without them.
It's not that I'm against gifts, or against donating toys to kids less likely to get them. But mostly I wish we all did less shopping and gift-giving/receiving in the first place. Too many gifts are obligatory this time of year. Too many are thoughtless binges on nonsense no one really needs or even wants.
So there you have it. My Bad Holiday Attitude. I think it's well-founded, but regardless, even I know it's probably not fair to overly subject my innocent children to it. So, what to do?
I think the main strategy we've employed in our family is to make life a fairly simple matter year-round. The kids don't get treats very often and when they do, they are small treats. We've tried to keep the bar very low for excitement so that Christmas doesn't need to be a three-ring circus to be special. But again, this requires a year-round effort. In order to keep holiday inflation low, daily life has to be pretty ordinary. My kids don't eat many sweets, for example. So a week at Grandmom's house with a cookie-a-day on offer is a big, big deal. Likewise a morning when they get to open three or four gifts all at once--and make a mess with the paper--is huge.
This strategy has allowed me to be less grumpy and more appreciative of the small gifts in my own life--like my kids going wildly crazy over a new truck or a candy cane.