If your holiday calendar looks anything like this, I’m gonna need you to read this. Yes, I know you don’t have time. But still. Stop. Read. It’s time to take back Christmas.

Look – I know that it’s great to have family. It’s a blessing to be surrounded by people who want to spend time with you over the holidays. After all, our kids won’t have grandparents forever, and we rarely know how much time we have left with loved ones. Plus, we want to instill those timeless family traditions in our children, and we long to fill their little hearts with warm family memories during the fleeting moments to childhood.

I get it.

But listen to me when I tell you that honestly there’s only so much cheer you can pack into a holiday before the rapidly diminishing returns set in. This can happen whether you fly or drive or just stay local. There are a lot of people to please at Christmas.

In my experience, if you come from a divorced family – you’re extra prone to over-cheer-packing.

And it sucks.

It’s Not Christmas Until Somebody Cries…

Believe it or not, all this “cheer” inspired a bit of a mantra for my sisters and me. For a period of four or five years, stretching, yes, into our 30s, we took to the saying, “It’s not Christmas until somebody cries.”

You see, we may have been adults; but we were raised to please, to be obscenely prone to guilt (Hey, Catholics!) and we all flew home to celebrate with divorced parents who lived in the same town.

Yes, we bought our own plane tickets, rented our own cars. Yes, we were all working and used our own vacation days to come home for the holidays. So why was it we felt we were on a constant time clock, zooming from one parent’s house to the other, usually late and usually disappointing someone? Who was in charge, anyway?

A Recipe for Disaster

Despite all the best intentions, with kids and suitcases and over-packed schedules, there’d ALWAYS be a rushed morning when, someone was late getting out of the shower, so the whole carload from mom’s to dad’s was 15 minutes behind. The first carload was irritated that they’d rushed there and were left to wait. Dad’s feelings were hurt that his lovingly prepared brunch was getting cold while all waited. The kids were antsy and overtired and way, way overstimulated.

When car two finally arrived, fueled by stress and exhaustion, everyone was hurt or resentful or pissed off or defensive or just really, really tired.

Someone would undoubtedly say something, and an argument would ensue. Someone would yell that they were never coming home for Christmas again and someone would run to their childhood bedroom and cry.

Jolly, no?

Taking Back Christmas

It took a good four or five years of this before I – the hottest temper in the family – had had enough.

It was then that I called a conference, and together with my sisters, we decided that we would run Christmas. We rented a house in a nearby resort – our three families.

The parents were left to rent their own homes.

I’ll admit, it was a bit sad not to have the nostalgia of sleeping in my childhood bed, or seeing our old Christmas decorations. There was no way to see friends from high school, or take a cold jog around my old neighborhood.

My parents weren’t happy. But they got it.

And we never had to do that again.

What’s the Point?

I guess for me, that was the year we took back Christmas. That was the year we remembered that the holiday is NOT about pleasing everyone else in the world; that our own little families mattered too. We realized, albeit belatedly, that we were grownups, gosh dang-it. And no one could tell us or guilt us or badger us into running on the horrendous treadmill of the over-packed cheer bus.

So take a look at that calendar again. And trust me when I say that it’s time to take back Christmas.

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Photo Credit: Faith Photography by Kati