There’s just something about the holiday season that brings out the best, and the worst, in humankind. It’s the season of brotherly love and fights at Walmart, the season of giving and the season of consuming, it’s the season of—well, you get the picture.
Now, it’s entirely possible that you’re one of the wise few who ensconce themselves in Real Family Values and the Things That Matter from November to January (and maybe even the whole year round). But if you live in near any kind of human settlement in this country, chances are you’re surrounded by regular old American holiday revelry, with its strong flavor of commercialism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses that just might eek its way into your happy marriage.
And how might they do that? By taking over your holiday traditions! There are some things, that if you feel the need to do them, you’re trying too hard. And it’s going to come back to haunt you, when your spouse finally admits defeat and says, “Look. This isn’t working. I can’t handle doing a singing holiday answering machine message with you for one single year more. I’m out.”
To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of nine holiday traditions to avoid if you know what’s good for your marriage. These nine things are the reindeer turds in the lovely red stocking of your happy home.
The Dreaded Christmas Letter
This one, luckily, has diminished in popularity over time, one thing we can actually thank Facebook for. With the rise of daily updates, there’s now less need to share the family happenings in one long annual digest, because people have already seen the photos from your family vacation and the soccer championships, and they know you got a new puppy because you Instagram it every 2.5 minutes. (I’m not complaining, I love dog photos!) Let’s be honest here, the annual holiday letter made sense when we were living on opposite sides of the country and there were no phones, like in the Little House on the Prairie days, but these days, it has just become a channel for bragging. “My kid won the Science Fair for the 5th grade!” Awesome. “My kid is becoming a child model!” Fine, whatever. “My kid is potty-training! And he’s only 5!” Okay, enough. Please just skip the letter and post Facebook updates like everybody else, so we can all Like your post then Unfollow you. Problem solved.
Matching Holiday Sweaters
I want to be clear about one thing: I have no problem with holiday sweaters on the whole. I actually have a couple. But MATCHING holiday sweaters are something else entirely. The only reason you should ever wear matching clothing to another person is if you’re an identical twin and you’re under 5 and you have no choice in the matter. After that, matching sweaters are just bad form.
Posed Holiday Photos
While we’re on that subject, let’s cover the whole matching-outfits-posed-holiday-photos issue. Do you find yourself arranging an appointment to have an actual photographer come to your home and take photos of you and your family in matching outfits to send out with your holiday letters or post shamelessly on social media? No. This is not necessary. I mean, I get wanting to take a photo of the family once a year, to mark time and for posterity and that sort of thing, and the holidays are an understandable time to want to do that, because everyone’s together. But don’t make everyone dress the same. We’re people, not penguins.
Holiday Shopping in September
Did you start your holiday shopping during the Back to School sales? Some people are organized, I get that. Some people even buy little bits and pieces for people throughout the year, whenever they see something that person might like—and who can argue with that? That’s just thoughtful. But if you actually, seriously, all-systems-go start your Christmas shopping before Halloween, you might be a compulsive shopper and you need to think about having that seen to. Or at least stop telling us about it.
Stockpiling the “It” Toy
This one goes for people who either a) make absolutely sure they have the “coolest toy this season!” well ahead of time whether their kid wants it or not, or b) find out what the cool toy is and buy twenty of them so you can scalp people on eBay. In the first instance, you’re obviously trying to buy your children’s love and/or make them cool, and everyone knows neither of those things is possible to do with mere stuff. And, if you’re in the option b camp, I admire your entrepreneurial initiative, but you really need to put yourself in the shoes of all those parents whose kids have been hounding them for weeks for this ONE STUPID LEGO SET and they can’t find it anywhere for less than four times the RRP, and it’s ultimately going to be a choice between that toy and Christmas dinner. I mean, give other parents a fighting chance. #thanks
Lying to Your Kids about Santa past Age 8
Oooh, controversial topic, this one. How long is it okay to tell your kids Santa is real? Well, I learned the hard way that any kid older than eight—ie. capable of feeling genuinely betrayed by his parents lying to him, person to person—is too old to be lied to about something that doesn’t really matter. Disagree if you must, but once you get to the point where they borderline don’t believe in magic anymore, you really shouldn’t try to force them to. That’s what Scientologists are for.
Making your pets wear holiday-themed outfits
I don’t need to go into detail on this. Putting your dachshund in a Santa outfit is not impressing anyone, it just makes people think about Googling the number for the ASPCA. Don’t do it.
Any kind of “Sexy Santa” outfit
The whole “sexy Santa” costume is one holiday tradition that just never made sense to me. I mean, dressing as a sexed-up version of an old married fat guy/gal? Whose fantasy is that? You may as well dress up as Sexy Donald Trump. (Impossible.) Just avoid this one.
Needing to Have the Biggest Tree
My friend worked at a Christmas tree farm when I was a teenager, and I distinctly recall him telling me that some people would go in demanding the biggest tree we had, without even looking around. Now, there are a few things about this that irked me then, and irk me to this day. First of all, the biggest isn’t necessarily the best. Sometimes the really huge trees were sort of bent, or grew in a weird shape. Secondly, the big trees were really heavy to carry all the way to somebody’s station wagon. And then, about 15% of the time people with the huge trees would literally come back and trade it in for a smaller tree because it was too big for their family room or whatever. Look. Know your limits. Have some appreciation for quality over size. Go buy a fast car. But do not insist on having the biggest tree in the place.