by Aurora Bordeaux
Winter holidays are different when you don’t have kids.
As I wrapped up another year with the hubs last week, I wanted to come up with some new holiday traditions of our own since we’re now an officially childfree couple (snip snip), but when I looked online for some ideas, all I found were sad articles about empty nesters and childless people who are only trying to distract themselves from a desperate desire for babies who aren’t present. Aurora Bordeaux says: Not good enough, google. So I figure, if you can’t google it, write it yourself.
Don’t get me wrong. Sitting around for three days in your pajamas, snacking without the brakes on, excessive waffle eating, and an extra sip of bourbon are all well and good. But we basically treated them like days off with gifts. I’m looking for some more official traditions that involve, I don’t know, whatever Christmas traditions usually involve. Pink candy pigs and whatnot.
Growing up, the holidays were always a tense tug of war where I was pinned like gigged frogs between outrageous standards of “the perfect family Christmas” and the stomach snagging drop that came when I couldn’t live up to those standards. It was a beautiful, impeccably decorated level of hell that Dante somehow omitted. Mom always got the wrong present, then would storm off alone in the car for hours to locations unknown. Dad always gave up. I always seemed to find myself lying in the corner with my hands folded on my stomach staring up at the lit Christmas tree like a lonely cat, waiting for the divorce to clear.
Now that I’m grown and well insulated from mom, holidays are weird. The past few years, I found myself both somewhat excited about them the way I used to be before the other shoe inevitably dropped and not wanting to celebrate them at all. The cocktail of feelings was strange and unpleasant. The memories were painful.
I still liked neighbors decorating yards with lights. I disliked constant radio ads touting the importance of family at the holidays, since it only brought up in sharp array what my life lacks—kids to worship, siblings who never existed, a self centered mother, in-laws who don’t quite understand me the way I hoped family would. When you’re culturally bombarded with a certain picture of perfection for two months straight, it’s hard to stay centered and in touch with all the things you love—not having kids on purpose, an out of this world hubs, two hilarious fluffy dogs, a functional dad who buys you Kate Spade note cards, Mimo the ancient grandma.
Since the hubs actually got his vasectomy mere days before Christmas this year and we had already hosted his parents in our home over Thanksgiving (story on V-Day to follow), the hubs and I made the tough decision to shrug off expectations and not visit his family for the holiday. I didn’t want to deal with both dogs in the car since Charminator has too much puppy energy, besides which dealing with several conflicting parenting styles and seven grandkids under one roof that seems to grow smaller by the minute sounded like living in another holiday nightmare. I insisted a million times that I could cowgirl up and handle it, but the hubs decided we would stay put. He called in sick without breathing a word about his procedure to a soul in his clan, and we stayed here, drank bourbon, cooked roast beef, and slept in.
It was after the holy ghost of Christmas came and went that I was able to realize that, just as I plan to rewrite my name this year, I could also rewrite the way I do the holidays. I don’t have to cow in the corner under the tree anymore, living under the tyranny of memories long past. I don’t have to visit my inlaws if it just doesn’t work for me this year. I can stay put, change my name, and eat cake if I want to.
This year, I bought myself some New Year’s goodies that had nothing to do with Christmas because I like the idea of a New Year’s gift you pick out for yourself. I got a nice new journal, some funny slap bracelets on sale from Kate Spade, and a snappy little card case I hope to use when making friends in our new life after we move. (Will I meet you, reader? I hope so.)
I realized this year that maybe either Christmas or Thanksgiving can belong to the inlaws, but New Year’s is safe and sacred ground. New Year’s says, “Hey! You made it through another holiday season. Here’s a fresh start and blank slate. Ignore the weather for now and focus on the new numbers.”
While I like redefining my New Year traditions with things like little gifts for myself, I also want to cook up some new Christmas and other holiday traditions that I can start looking forward to. You know, recraft the holiday and ditch what makes me sad. But coming up with traditions is kind of hard.
So I’m posting a query to the childfree world at large: How do you celebrate holidays? Any holiday. Hanukkah, Christmas, St. Patrick’s, Easter, whatever. I’m mostly looking for ideas for a Joyously Childfree Christmas, but I’m interested in every holiday you do something special for. I’ll post a link to this blog over on the Childfree Forums, but feel free to leave a comment here, too. If I can collect enough great ideas, I’ll post another blog later to list them all in one place. So you—yes, you—could be famous-ish!
Oh, and happy new year. I just love saying it!