Getting into the Christmas Spirit, or Fighting My Inner Grinch

Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life.

Here’s a doozy I’ve learned: Not everyone really likes the holiday season.

Say, for instance, me.

I do eventually get excited about Christmas, but it’s often about a week before the holiday arrives. Meanwhile, there has been a flurry of activity around me for weeks — what with decorations and displays, Christmas cards, Santa in the mall, well-wishes of “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” from store employees and Salvation Army bell ringers, holiday-themed shows and movies, everyone‘s renditions of Christmas carols playing on the radio, and invitations to holiday parties. Compared to people who adore these long weeks of holiday cheer, I’m like the Grinch.

Grinch

Every Who
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…

But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

I’m pretty sure I live South of Who-ville, but still . . . I struggle to get all that excited about Christmas.

So this year, I have a plan! After all, I don’t want to be in the same camp with creatures whose hearts are “two sizes too small.” I’m really a nice person — just not a holiday person. Anyway, here’s my strategy for getting into the Christmas spirit, or fighting my Inner Grinch:

Only Christmas music I like. Rather than groaning at Johnny Mathis songs or wondering why the latest one-hit pop wonder must record their own (bad) version of “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” I will find and play holiday music that I love. I’ll load up my iPod with a Christmas playlist that puts a smile on my face and a skip in my feet. I’ll collect the best of the best and download songs guaranteed to infuse me with holiday happiness.

Simple decorations. My pre-lit tree will go up today, and I will hang decorations on the tree and around the house that are simple and pretty. My husband already put up the outside lights (what a guy!), so we’re good on that front. But anything that doesn’t really add to the holiday spirit of my house can stay in the storage box this year.

Less mall, more Etsy. All too often, I get sucked into hunting down the perfect gift for someone in the overcrowded mall where I spent 20 minutes just finding a parking space. Or I end up standing at the gift card kiosk in the grocery store, trying to decide whether the restaurant card or the clothing store card would be better for someone on my list.

I want more personal, well-considered gifts for my loved ones. So while I’ve done a little shopping in regular stores or popular online retailers, I’ve been looking for different gifts this year, items that are unusual or customized or exactly the kind of thing I can see X falling in love with. Even the gift cards are based on the location and personality of the recipient (like from a local business where they live).

Quality time with my favorite people. Thankfully, I have a lot of favorite people, so I shouldn’t have a hard time filling my dance card, so to speak. But the holidays always seem to end up as a long to-do list to check off with me focusing on tasks rather than people. Instead, I want to carve out time to hang out with those I enjoy and let them know how much I enjoy them.

This may involve fewer gifts purchased and more family drives to look at lights or hosting people in my home (and not worrying about the mess) or watching holiday movies with friends and family. But it’s a season of blessings, and I want to savor the blessings of the wonderful people I have in my life.

Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas early this year. It never fails. Just when I think I’m going to push right through December 25 with my Inner Grinch intact, A Charlie Brown Christmas airs and I’m knocked from naysayer to caroler in less than a half hour. “Hark the herald angels sing!” So this year, I won’t wait. I’ll start the season with the Peanuts gang and get in the holiday mood.

Now let’s get into the A Round of Words in 80 Days mood. Here’s this Sunday’s progress report.

ROW80 Update

1. Finish YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, by completing three chapters each week. I did work on this, though not all three chapters. I spent a while researching archetypes, a la Christopher Vogler, to get more clarity for a specific character, which took me off track from the writing but is likely to beef up the story and save me time in the long run.

2. Take Short Stories 101 course from Young Adult RWA. Not only did I take the course and then write, edit, and polish a young adult short story, I wrote another. Yep, this past week I completed the first draft of another teen paranormal short. I took an idea I’d had for a novel a couple of years ago and switched it to a short story plot. I absolutely love how it came together! So, 13,000+ words on that front.

3. 10 3 fiction books and 2 -1 nonfiction books. I finished Grace-Filled Marriage by Tim Kimmel, the third nonfiction book I’ve read this round. I also read Real Vampires Have Curves by Gerry Bartlett and then Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

Also read this round: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, Dangerous and Unseemly by K.B. Owen, Taking Chances by S.J. Maylee, Haunted Spouse by Heather MacAllister (all fiction), and Breasts by Florence Williams and Competability: Solving Problems in Your Multi-Cat Household by Amy Shojai (nonfiction).

Do you battle “Inner Grinch” syndrome? What do you do to get into the holiday spirit? And how was your first week of December?

If the holidays really are a difficult time for you (and they are for many), author Kassandra Lamb has some great suggestions in her recent blog post, Bah Hambug Deux.

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31 thoughts on “Getting into the Christmas Spirit, or Fighting My Inner Grinch

  1. I live in downtown Who-ville. I used to get stressed out about the holidays when I threw elaborate parties, but I’ve cut back and it’s only my hand made Christmas card that stresses me out! I have a sketch and have to ink it today. The last few years I’ve made pop-up cards. Not sure there will be any three dimension this year…

    1. Ah, downtown Who-ville! I can almost hear the singing…

      I’m very impressed with your handmade cards. My grandfather was an artist and also sketched their family Christmas cards. Not only were they beautiful, but so personal. What a lovely idea, Susie!

      Happy holidays!

  2. I am a holiday person but I’m battling my inner Grinch a bit this year too. Once the tree goes up I should be better though and that’s on tap for today. I’m right there with you on the music! For me though, the holiday season doesn’t start until I’ve watched Miracle on 34th Street (the classic with Natalie Wood and in B/W) which happened Thanksgiving night.

    Great work on your goals!! All the best for the upcoming week.

    1. Interesting, Raelyn. I think that’s part of my Grinchy feeling…that Christmas seems to start on Thanksgiving — my own favorite holiday of the year. Indeed, every year it feels like Christmas tramples just a little bit more on my favorite holiday, so then I get testy about it. I’m not saying this is a good, healthy reaction! (Indeed, it doesn’t speak well of my Thanksgiving gratitude to get mad at Christmas, LOL.) But I like keeping Christmas in December.

      By the way, I love Miracle on 34th Street. I should add that to my list of must-see holiday movies to get myself in the Christmas spirit! Thanks!!! And happy holidays. 🙂

      1. Oh trust me Julie, I don’t want to see or hear anything Christmasy before I’m ready to sit down with my pie and Miracle AFTER Thanksgiving dinner. For my side family the reason Miracle works is that it opens with the Macy’s parade. I’m with you on the keeping Christmas in December. Thanksgiving is an amazing holiday and it drove me crazy to have Christmas before Halloween this year! Freakin’ retailers.

  3. I used to be a bit of a grinch at Christmas time. I couldn’t see the point of all the decorating for a couple of weeks, only to have to pull it all down again in the New Year. And it’s a very commercial holiday too. Lots of shopping going on, lots of stress – yeah. Not really my idea of Christmas.
    THIS year, however, we’re trialling something different. We’re going to have our “Christmas” on December 21st instead. While everyone else is going to be caught up in a flurry of shopping, we’ll be at home enjoying some family-and-friend time. And on the 25th, we’ll take it easy, treat it like any other day, and enjoy some quiet family time, head down to the beach, skype the rellies, and relax.
    I think that’s the key: relax. I just don’t do stress at all well.
    Congrats on the 2 YA short stories! Are you going to publish them?
    All the best this week, see you at the next check-in. 🙂

    1. A trip to the beach on Christmas Day sounds lovely to me! Actually, the day is a little nicer with the kids older and getting to sleep in. There’s a more relaxed feeling with that. Enjoy December 21! Merry Early Christmas to you!

      And yes, I’ll be publishing the short stories in 2014 — likely one at a time and eventually as a boxed set. Thanks for asking. 🙂

  4. My Christmas thoughts center around Jesus, not some fat guy in a red suit. Kids & grandkids are used to getting cash/gift cards. Don’t exchange gifts much beyond that. No stress. No dread.

    1. You know, I like the legend of St. Nicolas on whom the red-suited guy is based — it’s a lovely story of caring for children because of this Christian saint’s great faith and desire to help others. That’s the spirit I can get into.

      I suspect that Christmas will be easier as a grandparent, but we’ll see. I hope you get to be around your grandkids some this holiday season, David. I’ve been told that grandkids are your reward for not having killed your own children while they were growing up and driving you crazy. What do you think? 🙂

      Merry Christmas, and God’s many blessings to you, David!

      1. Your reply was kinder than my comment. I just get so fed up with making Christmas all about presents. You’re right about grandkids, Julie, but remember, it’s your kids who pick your nursing home.

  5. First, you know I’m cheering for you on these stories. I am so proud of you!

    Second, I’m an unrepentant grinch. I don’t decorate. I don’t listen to the music. While hubby overdoses on Christmas movies, I read or watch what I want on my iPad. My gift buying is super limited. I make sure the hubs has something to unwrap (which I usually order online). My parents like cash, so I give it to ’em. My gift buying stops right there. The one thing I do, which I enjoy, is cook a big, extravagant meal. And that’s really it.

    So I guess I do have the inner grinch syndrome, but I don’t battle it. 🙂

    1. As long as you don’t make your dog wear fake reindeer antlers and pull an overloaded sleigh, Grinch all you want! LOL.

      Thanks for the encouragement about the short stories! I started these on a lark, and I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying them. It also makes me want to read more short stories too. (You know I loved Haste from TALES FROM THE MIST!) Have a lovely week, Catie!

        1. Hey, it was “make your dog wear fake reindeer antlers” AND “pull an overloaded sleigh,” Kitt! You’re in the clear if you only make your canine do one of them. 😉

  6. I’m not normally a grinch, but I totally am this year. I really like your simple decoration idea. We have a few things up now and later today we’ll work on our tree. I’m hoping that will be it. We’ll have to wait and see if I luck out. 🙂
    Congrats on your short story. That’s so cool. Here’s to another great week.

    1. Thanks, S.J.! I think I’ve got Grinchier with the primary Christmas tasks falling on me as Mom, but without having cute little kids to ooh and aah over the Christmas trappings and presents and candlelight and wonder. I love my teens! But it’s not quite the same when what they really want for Christmas is CASH. LOL.

      Have a lovely week! I’m editing my short and rethinking some novel stuff.

  7. Julie, I’m one of those holiday lovers…but it’s always been a huge deal with my family (both the Filipino and American sides). Truthfully, a lot of people have been surprised that I’ve managed to maintain my love of the holidays after doing almost 15 years in retail. It’s the music and the story of baby Jesus that does it for me. I do try to be cognizant of the fact that not everyone loves this time of year, though.

    I’m so happy for you on your progress with your writing! Congrats.

    1. Holiday away, Kitt! I think your focus is wonderful, so maybe that’s why you revel so well in this time of year. Thanks for the encouragement. And Merry Christmas!

  8. Ah… the inner Grinch. You’ve inspired a post for this coming Sunday, Julie. Since we live in Grinchville here, it’s nice to have a few things to help keep the heart from constricting.

    Some of that is the great news about your short story progress. Maybe you didn’t get as much done on the novel work you were trying to finish, but it sounds like you made some amazing progress on other things. Good for you.

    (And btw, I don’t think being a not-so-into holidays person means you’re a Grinch. I think it means you don’t save up your kindness and expressions of love for just one token day. And that is a wonderful way to be.)

    1. Oh no, my Inner Grinch inspired a post! What does that mean? :/

      Thanks, Eden. Indeed, my novel continues to be a stab in the eye at times, but I’m sticking with it and enjoying the progress I’m making on other writing projects as well.

      1. Oh, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that your Inner Grinch inspired things. At the worst, it allowed me to free myself of some things… At the best, it has inspired me to remember some of those great moments.

        The best thing you can do is stick to it. There’s always something you can gain from the experience.

      2. Oh, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that your Inner Grinch inspired things. At the worst, it allowed me to free myself of some things… At the best, it has inspired me to remember some of those great moments.

        The best thing you can do is stick to it. There’s always something you can gain from the experience.

  9. Now that sounds like a great holiday cheer plan!

    I also normaly like the holiday season but find myself struggling to get excited for it. Maybe it’s because all the damn stores here in NYC had Christmas stuff up by Halloween! I’ll get into it by Dec 20 or so myself.

    Nice job with the writing!

    1. I wonder what Christmas in NYC would be like…

      I agree that the early Christmas in stores seems just off. I want to say to retailers, “Can we have a moment to breathe before you appeal to us again for more holiday-themed purchases?” Hope your December-20-Christmas-spirit plan works!

      Thanks for the compliment on the writing.

  10. I like your plan; if I can go this entire Christmas season without hearing the song “Christmas Shoes” I will be a very un-Grinchy person. I did manage to catch the tail end of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special on one of my breaks at work and that brought a smile to my face. It was right around the part where Charlie Brown brought the tree to the kids and Linus explained the true meaning of Christmas.

    The other good news is that I got Christmas Eve off so I’ll be able to spend it with my girlfriend and her family so yay!

  11. I love A Charlie Brown’s Christmas and The Grinch that Stole Christmas. Those are the only 2 I watch because, to me, they represent what the season is about, not some dancing snowman, or reindeer, elf dentist and toys.

    Your strategy sounds really good to me. Hope you have a happy Christmas, however you want to do it.

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