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.

A Few of My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

One more holiday-themed post before we get back to the regular programming. Here on Deep-Fried Friday, I like making lists. Top 10 Lists. So “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens,” yada-yada-yada . . . a few of my favorite things around the holidays:

10. Nutcrackers. I don’t even own a nutcracker, although I wish someone would get me one already. But I love seeing all of the variations of the wooden nutcrackers around the holidays. (This does not mean that I like that ballet, however. I never really understood that story.)

pic from http://www.nutcrackermania.com

 9. Wassail. I love this hot spice-laden beverage that warms your whole body throughout. I have never made the mulled punch myself, although I think I should give Christine Ashworth’s mulled wine a try too.

pic from http://www.tasteofhome.com

8. Christmas Lights Reflected in Water. I enjoy Christmas lights around town and in my neighborhood. But growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, I loved when people strung lights on their boats at the T-heads (harbor).

I also delighted in seeing the lights on the San Antonio Riverwalk – which are always lit in a celebration the day after Thanksgiving.

There is something not only about the bright lights, but the way they reflect upon the water that moves me. Now I may to take a trip to Kemah or Galveston to check out the lights there.

7. Hallelujah Chorus. I was in my high school choir, and we had a tradition of singing The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of every Christmas concert. Alumni were invited to come up and join in, if you could still reach all of those notes somehow. I find the lyrics and music uplifting. If the song ever comes on, I sing with it at the top of my lungs. Watch out, people!

Here’s an interesting version:

6. Holiday Parties. I know that some of them are obligatory. But they can also be quite fun! I’ve attended some great get-togethers over the years – from office parties to Christmas progressive dinners to my personal favorite, a New Year’s Eve fondue party. There is a festive spirit at such gatherings, with Christmas carols in the background, decorations all around, yummy food, and a chance to connect socially.

5. My kids’ excitement. Yes, this ranks somewhere in the middle. On one hand, it’s so much more fun to have Santa Claus and Christmas with a wide-eyed 6 – or even 14 – year old in your house! However, children are by nature impatient little creatures. They count down the Advent calendar like it’s a NASA liftoff. And to them, I suppose it does feel a bit explosive when the day finally arrives. Still, seeing the holiday season through children’s eyes gives it a sense of wonder that I hadn’t felt since . . . well, since I was a child.

Not my kid, but ain't she cute?

4. Christmas Carols. Beyond Hallelujah Chorus, there is a slew of great music out there for the holidays. Personally, I like the more traditional stuff best: Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas, Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and literally anything by Dean Martin. But there is also room in my playlist for such great songs like The Carpenters’ Merry Christmas, Darling, Harry Connick Jr.’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve, Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Cynthia Basinet’s Santa Baby, and the recent She & Him version of The Christmas Waltz. My favorite Christmas carol, however, is O Holy Night, and I love the rendition by Martina McBride. Here’s an acapella version from McBride on Opry Live. Wow.

3. Hubby Off Work. My husband usually gets several days off work at the end of the year. It’s a nice change to have him around, and we get quality time with our kids and with each other. I’d post a picture of the hunky hubs here, but I’m saving it for Roni Loren’s Boyfriend of the Week someday. 😉

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although I liken myself to the Grinch at times during the holiday season, every December I aspire to be more like Linus in understanding the true meaning of Christmas. I love the whole show written by the brilliant Charles M. Schulz, but this monologue is the best part:

1. Friends and Family. I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life, and that number has grown in this year of blogging, tweeting, and meeting fellow authors. I have also reconnected with high school and college friends in the last few years. My circle is growing, and it includes some amazing people.

There are some who dread this time of year because it reminds them of their loneliness. I hope that we can reach out to our loved ones and to others and treasure them more than the gifts we receive this season.

Your turn: What are a few of your favorite things over the holidays?