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Do You Love the Holidays, or Do They Stress You Out?

Posted by Annita Wozniak

I’m not sure that the word “stress” should be allowed to take so much credit for all the magical hubbub going on around us at this time of year.

Balancing our holiday parties, gift giving, visiting with relatives and spending time putting in batteries can be viewed as stress or as LIVING! How about a perspective shift?

Imagine it this way. When I was a girl I spent hours setting up the Barbie house. I arranged her tiny outfits, made doll beds out of discarded Christmas boxes and used the blocks to make the outline of Barbie’s home, etc.  It took hours.

Then,  when the Barbie house was all arranged I was never ready to actually hold the dolls and make up the Barbie words and march her around like she was alive.

I decided that I was someone who loved setting up the house, but not the one who loved the acting.

Did that mean I wasn’t having fun? Nope.

At holiday time, all the chatter is about the pressure, the lists, the wrapping, the family coming to visit. And, oh, the cleaning. And why do we clean before the party? Our homes just get all messed up and they really need the cleaning (some would say need the sanitizing) after.  I remember the year when I carried in the ice cream pail filled with rather slushy brandy slush and the handle broke. The plastic cover bent open as it hit the floor and we all knew that if we didn’t get it cleaned up quickly we’d be sticking to the floor as we went back for our second helping of sweet potatoes.  Several of us in our holiday outfits, scrubbed a kitchen floor together. Technically that could count as a holiday family bonding experience.  But I digress.

Each December I see everyone around me looking like they are enjoying all the activity. This elicits a response from some of the more sensitive people in our clan,  a call to panic of sorts, as they begin thinking all the people around them seem to really love the hustle and bustle, aka “the spirit of the season” or whatever label they are putting on it. They might even go so far as to wonder when Uncle Kevin is going to break out singing Silver Bells. “Why am I not feeling the intoxicating holiday buzz?”, the stressed ask themselves.

Some of us like the rush of the decorating the house, some of us like the part where we see the satisfied faces on our loved ones as they sit in the middle of ripped up paper and ribbons.  And some of us like the calm that follows the clean up,  where neatly stacked treasures sit like an island on a great expanse of empty, uncluttered floor.

For 2008 Christmas, I’m still creating and setting up the house.  This time the building is not for Barbie, but about constructing the traditions for our family. No acting required. No fear that I’m missing out on a thing. I’ve got the spirit.  One is digging in the storage box, and eyeing up the branches of the tree we cut down earlier on our trip to the farm and she is decorating everything heavily at knee level.  One is focused on taking all the snowmen ornaments and facing them in rows to do battle.  One has turned up the stereo tuned in to the all day everyday holiday music station and is dancing with her Dad, both singing with Louis Armstrong, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

How about you? Is there something you enjoy doing during the holidays? And which part would you rather skip?


About Annita Wozniak

Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at

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