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6 Bad Holiday Habits

Published in ChicagoNow, November 21, 2014

You would think at my age (8 grandkids – you do the math) I would have this holiday thing nailed. After making 40+ Thanksgiving feasts and countless Hanukah/Christmas celebrations, what is there to stress over? Well, I have some nasty holiday habits that haunt me every year from mid-November through December:

1. I worry about the menu. What a joke. In reality, Thanksgiving is much the same every year, as I am not a particularly creative cook. Similarly, our December celebration usually features potato latkes, applesauce, challah, a gingerbread house, and a huge hunk of meat for the men folk. Well, unlike Thanksgiving I can obsess about the dessert for that one. Now here’s the silly part. Since I became a grandmother 11 years ago, I have discovered that my grandkids eat very little of these meals, so I have also learned to worry about a menu for them.

2. I feel like my house must look festive and clean. This one goes way back to when my family, my husband’s family, and assorted guests attended. I still feel like the house needs to look like a Norman Rockwell painting…for five minutes. After everyone arrives, especially since the grandkids joined the scene, chaos reigns and I no longer care. I guess I was raised to make a good first impression.

3. I have to find perfect gifts. In addition to gifts for Hanukkah/Christmas, there are several birthdays that fall into this time frame. But let’s just focus on those gift lists for my 8 grandkids. I confess I am already doing this, and I know it’s a bit neurotic. I can’t help it – I’m a pleaser. And there’s no one I want to please more than my grandchildren. I’ve already been making lists, checking them twice (a day, that is) and putting things in my Amazon cart.

4. I have to do it myself. That starts with finding Thanksgiving decorations, preparing the meal, and cleaning up the mess. Ditto for December. I will let anyone willing bring food and help clean up. But I must wrap every gift and drag my holiday decoration box up from the basement to make the house look special for the season. Guess I’m lucky I don’t do a Christmas tree or holiday lights. That would put me over the edge.

5. I have strange ideas I must carry out. These vary from year to year, but there is always at least one. We will be celebrating my grandson’s second birthday at Thanksgiving and he loves Elmo. So, I must find or make an Elmo cake. Luckily, they have a cake pan mold for this because none of the local bakeries will do it. So here I am, trying to decorate the cake so it looks like the picture that came with the pan. Fail. But I can freeze it before the chaos descends. Google assures me it will be fine to do this. A 2-year-old will be impressed with how it looks, right?

6. I must ruminate and procrastinate about all of the above. I will start worrying in early November, wasting two perfectly fine (well, cold but still…) months thinking about two days. Then, I will do 95% of what needs to be done. I always lose interest in finishing, resulting in a last-minute Thanksgiving Day dash to the store or a final gift to be purchased in haste when I think I have short changed someone.

I guess these bad holiday habits have become part of my tradition. I will deck the halls of my mind with boughs of worry. In the end, none of this will really matter. As much as I love control and order, that’s not the nature of this season. What I end up treasuring are the people I love and the happy chaos they bring to the holiday table.


by Laurie Levy
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