It’s Okay to Not Have the Holiday Spirit

“Fa la la la la, la la la ughhhhhhhhhh”

Yes, this is me right around this time of year. Thanksgiving has come and gone and I’m still a little bit fat and happy from my food coma, while dreading what’s right around the corner. Don’t get me wrong, this is also strangely one of my favorite times of the year! It’s a battle between the excitement of lights and decorations around every corner to the looming expectations that come with gift gifting, traditions, events and family. It can be overwhelming to try to “do it all” and in this process the holiday spirit sometimes is lost. This is the year though where tell myself that it is OK to NOT be in the holiday spirit.

I always wanted to be that mom. The one who broke out the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Putting my husband to work hanging lights, untangling garland and sorting through ornaments all while humming along to a Harry Connick Jr. Christmas album and smelling some sweet cookies baking in the oven. But let’s be real. What is really happening is I’m napping (trying to), avoiding Black Friday crowds and sneering at my neighbor down the street who put her decorations up a week ago. “Oh hey! Fantastic job, looks great!” Sigh.

Now, I’m not cynical, or grumpy. You won’t hear a “BAH HUMBUG” from me. It’s just that the thought of trying to wrangle my 9 yr old, wake my husband up from his nap, and constantly checking the baby to make sure he is happy and not choking on tinsel to do some holiday manual labor just doesn’t seem like the best way to spend my time, money, or energy.

And that is when the guilt sets in. Am I not creating warm and fuzzy holiday traditions for my family? What kind of monster am I, that I can’t spend one day making our home an inviting Christmas wonderland for the next month? Will I really fall out of favor with the social media gods if I don’t have an Instagram post of my picture-perfect Christmas decorations? “Hey world, look how put-together, creative and amazing I am!”

And that is just the beginning. Don’t get me started on Christmas cards. Should I send them out this year? We just had a baby and I’m sure that would just be the cutest darn thing ever to send out. But that means we need to have the cutest darn photo ever to put on said Christmas Card. Do I hire a photographer? Try to sort through pictures from the past year? I need to go online and design it, then stuff envelopes, then address them all, then get stamps, then mail. See where I’m going with this?

I sound like I’m whining, or just plain lazy, but on top of choir rehearsals and performances, last minute school assignments, end-of-the-year projects at work, parties and get-togethers, etc… isn’t this time of year already chaotic and busy and FULL? I already guilt myself all year long about failing in one way, shape, or form as a mother….so why put the extra pressure on myself at the very end? I know, I know… it’s the thought that counts. Actually, I have put a TON of thought into this.

When the shift happened from being excited about the holidays to anxious and dreadful is when I realized I was going about this all wrong. No longer were the days of my youth, driving around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve to see the lights, enjoying our Christmas Eve dinner tradition of Antone’s po boys (it’s a Houston Texas thang ya’ll) and wondering what gifts awaited me under the tree the next morning. It had been replaced by worrying about my Dollar Store decor and lack of holiday sweaters and cheer.

Now I budget for gifts, make list for gifts, then freak out asking myself, “Did I get everyone a gift? Will they think my gift is thoughtful? Will they realize I got it at Walgreens yesterday in a mad dash to check them off of my list? Why did I wait till the last minute AGAIN to get this all done?” Christmas had become a gift-giving anxiety-inducing mess and I had lost focus on what truly mattered.

So if you are anything like me and this time of year has you all in a tizzy, when I say that it’s OK to NOT be in the holiday spirit, what I really mean is don’t overthink it:

Disappointed your house isn’t lit up like the Griswalds? Get over it. No one cares but you.

Did you opt for the fake Christmas tree that already has lights and ornaments? Added bonus, does it spin and play music? Good for you! You are a multi-tasker and deserve an award for even trying.

Maybe let the kids make a wreath or their own decorations to brighten up the place. Tis the season for family time right? (see DIY disclaimer below)

Can’t stand the endless loop of Christmas songs playing on the radio and in every effing store you walk into?

We all are annoyed, you aren’t alone. Remember those alternate lyrics to all your favorite Christmas songs you sang as a kid? “Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg…..” Just giggle to yourself in the checkout line and ignore the side eye looks from strangers.

Forgot to bake those cookies for Santa?

He digs old Girl Scout Cookies from the freezer, I promise.

Did you make your list, and check it twice?

It’s too late to try this tactic, but a friend of mine had a great idea of starting Christmas shopping in January. Stay with me here, it’s a great plan.

First of all, you will be scooping up all the great deals post-holiday as stores try to whittle down  their inventory. Secondly, ideas are fresh on your mind about what you should have gotten your mother since she made that oh-so-passive-aggressive comment about how she really wanted that other set of salt-n-pepper shakers that match her China better. Check, and check!

Try getting one or two gifts each month throughout the year. By the time December comes along you are done, not broke, and not freaking out. You are welcome.

Tired of Christmas being all about gifts? Try starting a new tradition of gift-giving.

  • Make a donation in someone’s name. I once gifted a tree from the Arbor Day Foundation. Who doesn’t love trees and putting more oxygen into the world?

  • Try non-toy gifts like museum/zoo memberships, art/dance/cooking classes, or tickets to an event. You are awesome-sauce and time with you is really the best present!

  • Rally the troops together in agreeing to not give gifts to any of the adults in the family/group of friends, and concentrate only on the kids. You might be surprised how easily they agree to this.

  • Follow the Want, Need, Wear, Read model for kids (or anyone really) and keep it simple. If you start them off young they won’t come to expect a ton of presents each year.

  • Encourage your kids to volunteer with you, or to donate old clothes and toys. Help them embrace the spirit of the season! They can also save money throughout the year with the end goal of giving it away in December or to buy and donate toys to a charity. The year-round giving idea is a fantastic concept.

  • Schedule a traveling Christmas and get away from all the hustle and bustle. Spend the money you normally would have spent on gifts, on a trip for the family. Making memories is the best gift of all.

  • If all else fails, there are always DIY gifts.


While these ideas are very thoughtful, just remember you're already pressed for time with everything else going on, so if you decide to brave this adventure don’t be too hard on yourself if it turns into a Pinterest Fail. This will just be that year everyone remembers as the time you tried to make lotion bars and they melted and everything smelled like lavender for months. (Not that I would know anything about this specific example….)

Being in the holiday spirit does not mean you have to live up to everyone else’s ideas or expectations. It’s embracing the holidays in a way that works best for you and your family. Let’s be honest, and also keeps you sane with money leftover in the bank.

So start a new fun tradition, spend more time together instead of shopping for gifts, and put an emphasis on this time of year being about what matters most - FAMILY. Everything else is forgettable.

Except for those Christmas cards. I should really send those out, the baby is super adorable and it would be a great hit...

Happy Holidays!


Does the holiday hustle have you down under a mountain of chaos and to-dos like Amy? I know I can feel this way too. What kinds of tactics do you employ to help curb these emotions or help push them aside to enjoy the most "wonderful time of the year"?  Please share in the comments below so we can all get some tips!