Christmas,  Gratitude

The Secret Society of Christmas Anxiety: How to Calm the Expectations


No pressure, but have you poured your own candles with beeswax from your backyard colony yet?

…gotten your hollyhock dipped and your mattress flipped?

…added plumbing to your gingerbread house?

…drained your hot tub and refilled it with mulled cider, orange slices and cinnamon sticks?

Is there a wreath on your grill and a candle on your sill?

…gold glitter on your babysitter?

…a candy cane on your windowpane?

…jingle bells on your dusted shelves?

Good tidings, no.

Martha Stewart’s still alive and well, but let’s all give an eight-clap to the fact we don’t live in the ‘90s anymore.

If she wants to stencil her driveway, God bless her. When I wrote Christmas Card Burnout, all about expectations and guilt, I mentioned the unrealistic superwoman I kind of admire and mostly don’t.

She’s talented, yes, but she also claims Snoop Dogg and 141 minions helping behind the scenes.

At last count I claim one dog and zero minions.

You’re talented, too. But if dealing with plastic icicles, green holly, red hats, ugly sweaters, cushy slippers, and miles of wrapping has your tinsel in a tangle, maybe it’s time to retreat.

Like, bail out and return in twenty-eighteen? Okay!

No. More like step back, re-evaluate, decide what’s truly important and nix the rest. I promise not to sing Let It Go if you promise to let something go.


The Secret Society

Are you getting on a plane for Christmas? With all you’ve chosen to do between now and then, the thought of just getting to the safety talk might make you reach for a barf bag and attempt to breathe naturally.

Once you wrestle with the overhead compartment, bump your head and flop into your cramped seat, feel free to sigh and let your eyeballs roll on back. You made it! Christmas didn’t get the best of you!

Okay, maybe it did. But you can totally get it back by reverse-engineering now before your present becomes your past.

Somehow the majority of us signed up for this secret society that tells we should be doing 73 Christmas things really well, while attempting to hold our families together in coordinating colors and displaying glittery joy.

I’d like to whack the founder of such a club. Does this person have any clue how much anxiety surfaces each December as a result of their entrepreneurial stunt?

Of course it’s my fault for joining the society. I willingly provided my name and address, unaware of the chaos it would bring.

But it ends here. I’m deciding today to move forward with a broader picture in mind, resisting the urge to argue my own potential points and be grateful for what I have.

“Are you clothed and fed with shelter overhead?”

Well, yes, but I wore these same duds in 2014. Must. Shop. 


“Do you have enough money to buy a few Christmas presents?”

I guess so. But it’s not like I can buy what I really want.


“Will there be meat in your Christmas dinner?”

Of course. Except for my cousin Rainbow’s plate—she’s a Primal Veganista with Keto tendencies, but we still let her sit at the adult table.


Three yeses puts us all in the wealthy category, so it’s time to ditch the griping and move on to our impending schedules and high expectations.


Crazy Calendars, Loco Lists

While brainstorming this post, I asked a friend for her thoughts on the Christmas crazy cycle. I admire her articulate response:

“I sat here today, baffled, realizing I have events every single weekend the entire month of December. And I thought, Why is so much planned and happening in December? It’s like this every year and it’s exhausting! 

But the more I thought about it the more I realized it’s my problem. It’s because I can’t say no. I deal with this all year but for some reason, in the season of giving and joy and serving others I feel even more obligated to say yes.

Doing Angel Tree is a good thing. Hosting the family Christmas Party is a good thing. There are lots of good things I’m doing, but I have to ask myself if that’s really the point of the holiday season. I think I lost my perspective of the Silent, Holy Night.”

Photo by Greyson Joralemon

She’s right on both sides. It’s a choice.

Buying Kenyan goats in someone’s name is creative and generous.

Filling a shoebox with practical goodies would make a kid’s day.

Donating to Wounded Warrior in honor of a vet is needed.

Purchasing a toy for a tot would be nice of you.

Decorating a table for your church’s Christmas dessert sounds fabulous.

Doing all five in a three-week window? Not fabulous.

Of course if you’re responsible for no one, independently wealthy, and your Christmas gifts are already wrapped, knock yourself out and dig in.

The rest of us will be rocking in a round room, looking for the corner and sucking our thumbs.


Christmas Alternatives for the Harried

  1. Instead of taking 723 cookies to all the neighbors in a half-mile radius, take one plate to your local firemen. We did this every year growing up and loved it! After extinguishing fires and rescuing drunks out of trees, they’re grateful for homemade goodness.
  2. Pass on new decorations–you probably have enough. Spoiler alert: they’ll be on clearance in three weeks.
  3. Our church puts on a fantastic Christmas concert, but if your family hates them and you’re going out of guilt….
  4. The wearing-matching-scarves-and-sipping-hot-cocoa-while-ice-skating tradition may look rad on social media, but if you’re sick of freezing your pompoms off and landing on your keister, consider skipping a year. Or three.
  5. Buy a smaller tree. Save money, save time, save money, save time.
  6. The annual Christmas parade could fire up the joy, yes. Does the thought of finding a parking spot make your spouse’s blood boil though? Are your kids bored stiff after float #3? Does the sound system remind you of a dying water buffalo? For the love of cold weather expectations, feel the freedom to skip the parade and get cozy at home.
  7. Draw names. This new tradition in our family requires less time and less pesos, and I can’t even explain the absence of stress while only buying for one family member. It’s truly glorious… in excelsis deo. Plus, by focusing on only one person, you can actually buy them a killer gift instead of buying 23 people five-dollar landfill goodies.


In Closing…

Please give yourself a break this year, please cut yourself some slack.

Put down the shiny, twelve-foot sleigh, and save your Christmas back.


Don’t bother floating tealights in your toilet tank either. That’s so ‘80s.


“Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”  ~Linus, Charlie Brown Christmas


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  • Don Broesamle

    I’m sad I haven’t made your Christmas Card List for three years now.
    Now I’m feeling foolish in my coordinated colors and scarf … and too warm.
    Do you know how hard it is to prepare a Keto Christmas meal?
    BUYING Kenyan Goats is easy … it’s DELIVERING them that has me frazzled.
    I miss you bringing me a cookie each year, climbing that tree to reach me.
    Nobody draws MY name.
    But I DID film my mattress.
    It’s going to be a great Christmas.

    • Carrie Talbott

      For the record, it’s only been two.
      Your coordinated colors work well for MH photo cards.
      Not really, but feel free to enlighten us.
      Try FedEx. Worked for Tom Hanks and a volleyball.
      Um… I don’t think you should be admitting your tipsy past in a public forum.
      Your neighbor Dave did, but I think he switched it out for some guy in the fountain.
      Please don’t film your mattress; that’s weird.
      Yes, amigo, it is. Especially because we’ll be there soon to hassle you.

  • Shelley Fields

    Our town’s light parade was last Saturday, after a morning of karate and an afternoon birthday party. It was a battle in my head for sure. I knew the kids would love it but the additional reality would be I would have to take them on my own and I would spend the night running out into the street to snatch the two year old from being trampled under horses’ hooves, car tires and marching feet. I opted to stay home and the kids didn’t even know what they missed. They will be obligated to be IN parades soon enough; plenty of time to attend then!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh, gosh… you painted a great visual of the possible chaos, but I’m kind of glad you stayed home. If for no other reason than keeping your two year-old from being trampled! Thanks for sharing, Shelley. You’re right–you still have gazillions of parade opportunities in the future. 🙂

  • Alyce Donahue

    So good Carrie! The first time I gave myself “permission” to not send Christmas cards (pre-FB days), I thought my world would cave. Honestly it was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done. Why did I need permission? Now I rarely send them at all….maybe every 3 years, if even that. This season is worth a review every year. Change it up, do/don’t do, make it real and meaningful. That in itself should be the annual event! Thanks for the great thoughts!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Sounds like you were the Christmas Card Burnout pioneer, Alyce. Thanks for paving the way and sharing your story. I felt pretty free last year, too!

  • Debbie

    We have narrowed it down a lot the last three years, at first not by choice. But apreciate it now. However, I don’t give up the chaos of producing the Christmas shows for Faith’s dance studio. It feeds my inner control freak issues. We also keep some traditions, but re evaluated others. Love ur insight! AND loving downtime during the season.

    • Carrie Talbott

      “Inner control freak issues.” Love it. I know your family circumstances have been rough. Glad you can appreciate some of the simplicity as a result of being pared down. Thanks for your kind words, Debbie!

  • Andrea

    was it seriously a thing to float candles in the toilet tank? was it a practical joke that went bad? i have a friend who set a pool filter on fire during a proposal with floating candles….i may have laughed…for months…

    Pinterest ruins lives. I have a friend who’s instagram photos look like pintrest. right down to the tray full of hot chocolates with mini marshmellows and peppermint sticks by the campfire. i would be envious if i didnt know how chaotic her life really is.

    but im guilty of Christmas guilt too. especially buying toys for drives…i cant stand that a kid might not have a present…and i cry during hallmark movies…

    wishing you a relaxing season…and moments to cherish ????

    • Carrie Talbott

      You have the best stories, Andrea. I never personally floated tealights in my toilet tank, but can you imagine catching your long hair on fire while using the loo? I am not on Pinterest, but I definitely agree with your observations. I think we need to start a social media site for reality photos. Actually… I’m a part of a FB group called Clutter Free and it is super freeing. Such real photos of real messes, posted by realistic women who are striving to declutter and simplify. I might need a dose of that this month. 🙂

  • Bri

    Love this! And I really like the suggestions at the end. I actually love Christmas (sorry) but I love MY version, and have edited the crap out of what I’m “supposed” to do- much like you have from the sounds of it. Cheers!

    • Carrie Talbott

      I love Christmas too, and you’re right–creating your own version of lower stress, etc. is key. Thanks for chiming in, Bri!

  • Sherry Brinkerhoff

    Thank you, Carrie!! Loved your article. I am so glad I don’t go to the extremes of the 80’s any more. Back then, I even wrapped all Kleenex boxes in every room (we had a lot of allergies!) like gifts so they would fit into the Christmas decor! It is so easy to get “wrapped up” in all the glitter of Christmas, but we don’t want to forget who, what, and why we are celebrating–our blessed Savior incarnate.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my gosh… hilarious! I’m picturing all your Kleenex boxes all wrapped up and imagining how much time and effort that took. Good on ya for leaving that tradition in the rear view mirror with our scrunchies and Aqua Net. Thanks for your great reminders too.

  • Christine Ingebretson

    This is SO GOOD! I love the ideas. We got a smaller Christmas Tree this year, and that alone feels like a HUGE help. It was half as expensive and I am not near as overwhelmed about decorating it. I am also disciplining my self to spend less money on each niece/nephew because of our job changes. This is hard and I have to breathe through it, but it feels like the right thing…Thanks for this Carrie!!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Gracias, Christine. Good for you for getting a smaller tree! I know changes are hard, but I’m right here, breathing into my bag with ya. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in!