A story that has circulated within my family for many years demonstrates an essential quality of the Christmas season.
One year, my parents bought a Barbie DreamHouse for one of my sisters. It was the “it” toy, and I’m sure my sister was thrilled to find it under the tree.
Preparing it for playtime, however, was a daunting task for my father. The DreamHouse was horribly complicated, and assembling it turned into an absolute Yuletide nightmare.
It took my father a good chunk of the night to put everything together. But he finally did, and he was ready to grab a few hours of sleep before all the Christmas festivities unfolded.
Just as he was about to jump into bed, however, my father got a call from a neighbor. He also had purchased a Barbie DreamHouse for one of his daughters, and like my dad he was going crazy trying to figure out where all the parts should go. He asked my father to come over and assist him.
And so he did. Perhaps my dad’s experience of working on the one for my sister helped reduce the frustration over the second one from that point on.
Truth to tell, I recently discovered that the details of this story are more legend than reality.
Yes, my sister and our neighbors’ daughter received the very first Barbie DreamHouse to hit the market in the early 1960s. But this was a simple cardboard version, not difficult at all to assemble. And my dad routinely helped our neighbor put together toys on Christmas Eve.
But while it’s a myth, this anecdote is a microcosm of what many people endure each year during this holiday. They run themselves ragged buying the perfect gifts, planning the perfect meals, decorating the perfect homes and baking the perfect cookies.
Striving for more simplicity at Christmas is enticing to most of us, and some people actually attempt this. Against the odds, a few of these individuals are able to achieve their goal.
But despite all the promises to our loved ones, far too many of us fall back into old habits. We tell ourselves not to get stressed out and not to spend too much money. However, we cave into the temptation to get stressed out and spend too much money!
We can’t seem to help ourselves. We desperately want to sit back and appreciate the peace of this season without becoming exhausted. Tasks pile up, though, and pretty soon we’re frantic with worry because we may be late for the local school production of “The Nutcracker Suite.”
Why do so many people overdo it when it comes to Christmas? Can’t we just accept that it’s OK if not everything turns out perfectly?
Sure, one gingerbread man has fewer stripes on his Christmas socks than the others. Come on — who cares?
It’s true that some people feel the need to be showboats at Christmas. They measure their worth by how much bigger and brighter their home light show was than that of their neighbors. This is unfortunate.
But for many other people, there’s another reason that they drive themselves into deep holiday fatigue every year: Love.
We host and attend countless parties because we love our family members and friends. We want them to know how much they mean to us, so we somehow trudge through the many social engagements.
Our overspending, overcooking and overwrapping is a sign of how much we care about those in our lives who are truly special. “Good enough” simply isn’t good enough when it comes to this season.
Regardless of how we commemorate it, we all look forward to Christmas each year. It’s an excuse to express pure joy, and we need to bask in this sentiment once the calendar reaches its end.
But more importantly, we want those we love to experience this joy as well. So we run ourselves into the ground making sure they do. Christmas may be incredibly tiring, but we feel even more blessed to have put forth the effort.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.