My family is cross-cultural and, at least, when it comes to my spouse and our kids, very secular. We do, however, celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas and, the last few days, I have felt the stress of preparations for familial celebrations acutely.
Most of this was of my own doing. I was feeling inadequate and judging myself for having such a messy house. There are no decorations (except the tree, which we put up on Monday) and I have certainly not done any holiday baking.
Every level surface was covered in layers of clutter. I also found that stuff that doesn't usually bother me so much (the fact that most of the knobs are missing from our kitchen cupboards, our counter tops desperately need replacing, our bathmats and towels are all frayed and, in a number of places, the wallpaper has been torn off the walls) was making me absolutely nuts.
I did manage to put a dent in the mess but not until I had driven everyone in the house crazy, too. By the time afternoon rolled around my spouse was trying to get me to take deep breaths and my oldest son was referring to himself as "S-erella".
Then, when everyone (my parents and sister and brother in law) arrived, I just decided to let it all go (OK, the wine helped). As the evening unfolded and I relaxed, I was reminded that we were all there to enjoy each other, that I am a grow-up now (even if I don't always act like it) and that all expectations around our own particular traditions were being met.
These are the things you can count on during the holidays at my house:
1. We will light the Chanukah candles (we have a felt menorah and the real thing) and, in lieu of a prayer we will sing loudly and off-key. We call Chanukah "the festival of fried things" and we always make sure that we eat lots of them (latkes are a particular favourite and my spouse and his brothers each believe that theirs are the best).
2. On Christmas Eve, everyone will come over in the late afternoon. My spouse will have to run one last errand after the guests arrive and I will excuse myself to go wrap all my presents (careful wrapping is not a priority in my family).
3. My mom will bring chicken pot pie and tourtiere (a French Canadian traditional pork pie). My sister will bring a celiac-friendly, kosher chicken pot pie (my sister and I are both married to Jewish men).
4. We will begin to unwrap all our presents to each other shortly after dinner. Despite the fact that we will all have declared that we planned on restraint, we will open presents for hours.
5. The first present we each get will be socks.
6. My spouse will put out crackers, cheese and pickles that almost no one will eat because we are still full of tourtiere and pot pie.
7. My sister and I and the kids will all get pajamas.
8. My brother-in-law will give my mom a bottle of wine.
9. We will put out a snack for Santa (we tracked his travels on Google Earth). This year, we left him a banana, blueberry, chocolate chip muffin and apple juice).
10. The next morning, D. will wake up first. We will keep him in our bed for a while so that the others can get a bit of sleep (this morning, D. woke me up to say, "Mama! You fell back asleep!" but he also read to himself for more than an hour).
11. The kids will go and wake up my mom in the attic guest room and we will go downstairs.
12. Santa will have come. Euphoria will ensue. This year's haul included DS games, a hot wheels set (for D.) and a big red bean bag chair (for S. but D. has been eyeing it).
13. We will all find chocolate in our stockings (fair trade, except for D. who has a nut allergy. Santa hasn't been able to find a distributor of fair trade chocolate that's safe for him. D. gets a Mars bar).
14. My brother-in-law will bring a bottle of Baileys (one of the many reasons I love my brother-in-law) and most of the grown ups will pour liberal amounts into our breakfast coffee.
15. I'll go for a post-breakfast dog walk with S. and my sister. They will wear their pajamas.
16. We will have a Christmas dinner, consisting of a turkey with all the fixings. T. will roast the turkey and veggies, mom will make the cranberry sauce and my sister makes the stuffing and desserts. We will all eat until we can't move.
Something we did last year, which we are making into a tradition is watch a movie on Christmas day. Last year it was Elf. This year's choice is Get Smart. Going to go do that now.
May you all be enjoying your good traditions, surviving the meshugas and spending time with people you love.