I used to feel like running away for the holidays. Perhaps go somewhere distant, warm and unChristmas-y. It wasn’t Christmas itself I wanted to run away from but all the work that precedes it.
The Christmas season, despite its many endearing attributes, sometimes feels like a seasonal sprint: a short span of time prompting an intense amount of activity. There are lists to make, shopping to do, cards to send, cookies to bake, rooms to clean, concerts to attend, gifts to wrap, and family and friends to visit. Just thinking about December’s crowded calendar is exhausting!
Some lucky people have a few relaxing days off work to look forward to between Christmas and New Year’s Day. I’ve seldom been one of those fortunate ones. Early in my employment history I worked in retail, and later I worked in finance. Both of those fields require additional hours of work during the busy year-end period, not fewer.
Every year, while I shopped and baked and cleaned and wrapped, I fantasized about running away from Christmas. Instead of spending money on gifts, I reasoned, I would buy a ticket to someplace where there were no Christmas chores to do and no snow to shovel. Friends and family would be too busy, perhaps, to notice my absence. And if they did, they’d probably wish they had run away, too.
Despite this annual fantasy, I never have run away for Christmas. Instead, I’ve adjusted my Christmas attitude over the years. I’ve dropped some of the unnecessary chores (do I really need cookies?), reduced others (absolutely nobody cares how clean my house is?really!), and better managed the rest. Each year, Christmas has come and gone and I’ve survived it?at home.
I’ve learned to appreciate other aspects of the holiday season. After moving away from my hometown several years ago, the act of sending cards?and the pleasure of receiving them?became more meaningful. Now Christmas cards keep me connected with people I seldom see. Visiting friends and family also became more important to me as I got older. Loved ones are all getting older too and, having lost a few of them already, I’m keen to appreciate people while they’re still around.
So, I’ve matured, and my Christmas attitude has matured too. Life has taught me what’s important. Experience has taught me how to prioritize to make sure what’s important gets done. And wisdom has taught me that running away doesn’t solve anything.
Each year I hear reports of airport congestion as thousands of Canadians seek to escape Christmas?or at least escape the snow. These days, the thought of having to plan a trip, pack a suitcase, fight my way to and through the airport?an ordeal at the best of times?just for a few days of escape followed by days of catch-up at work and mounds of post-travel laundry at home, well, forget it. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. This year, once again, I’m home for the holidays.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.