(Columnist’s note: I’ve had some heartfelt holiday columns I’m still very fond of, but I think this reprint from 2015 remains my favorite of all the funny ones. I’ve updated it just a little to reflect current dates and events, but it remains mostly unchanged.)
Face it. The holidays, however wonderful they may be, are stressful. There are a lot of special things to get done, and the things that need doing every other day of the year don’t just go away for the occasion.
Try as I might, I just can’t get the cats to understand that I’ve got all this Christmas shopping to do, and I deserve a break on cleaning their litter boxes. Plus, if there are to be new clothes, they won’t appear until Christmas, so in the meantime I have to wash my old clothes in order to have something to wear.
I think it’s a fairly well-known fact of psychology that stress affects people in different ways, but most of those ways are fairly predictable based on your personality. In fact, over the years, I have discovered that there are a limited number of holiday personalities. Everyone pretty much falls into one of them, and the roles are set by the time the turkey is on the table on Thanksgiving.
Think of this as a sort of holiday zodiac. You may think you aren’t on this list, but I’ve got news for you. Even if you can’t see it, everyone else can. Ask your family if you’re brave enough. They can tell you without a second thought which one you are.
The Martha Stewart: You have been on Pinterest since August planning for the holiday season. In fact, for you, the holiday season started in August since that was when you had to buy the yarn for your hand-knitted, one-time-use 2019 stockings and when you had to begin pickling garden vegetables for your Thanksgiving table.
As we speak, you are probably inventorying your wreath collection to see which four you will break out for the season. This is an easy task because they are all stored in specially-purchased wreath-storage containers with printed labels on the side.
No one likes you, but we all need you. You get food on the table and decorations on the tree, and you actually seem to enjoy it most of the time. Also, you keep the rest of us in line because everyone fears the meltdown that will inevitably come if someone accidentally puts the Dean Martin Christmas CD in the Bing Crosby Christmas CD jewel case.
This year’s holiday advice: Just don’t admit at the Thanksgiving table that you have already finished your Christmas shopping. Also, it’s possible that I may need to borrow a wreath. You have plenty. I think I have one, but it’s been crushed under the Christmas tree because they are both in the same big box, that is, the box that the Christmas tree came in.
The pre-Grinch: While the Martha Stewarts have been on social media posting 14 different egg nog recipes, you have been collecting memes of Grumpy Cat in a Santa hat and writing blog posts about the injustices of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas lights. You insist that you enjoy the holidays, or at least that you have nothing against them. Mostly, it’s their extension and blending that is a problem for you. The holidays have prescribed dates, you explain, and Nov. 10 is definitely not one of them.
It’s not that no one likes you. It’s always that you peak too early. By December 21, your jokes will be a welcome dose of cynicism in a world grown too syrupy for anyone’s taste (except your natural enemy, the Martha Stewarts, on whom the strain will be beginning to show, but they won’t admit it.)
Holiday advice: Get some new material. Part of the problem is that your complaints about peppermint-flavored everything aren’t substantially different from your complaints about pumpkin-spice-flavored everything that you were spouting last month. Also, get some seasonally appropriate shoes. Everything seems worse when your feet are cold.
The Grateful Dodger: You enjoy the holidays because you don’t have to make them. While other people are running to the supermarket in the middle of the night in order to reconcile their work schedule with their banquet duties, you are sleeping the sleep of the just. You’re fond of saying that everyone stresses too much about the holidays and that the important thing is just that everyone is together. In truth, you want a feast as much as anyone else, but you’re happy to sit back and let other people handle it. You are much too busy.
You may be inclined to actually put in more hours at work during the holidays, because no matter what you do for a living, it probably doesn’t start at 4:30 in the morning and require basting every half hour. You will blow into the Thanksgiving festivities 10 minutes before dinner explaining how you came straight from work.
Holiday advice: At least bring an expensive bottle of wine. It will help to justify the fact that your job needs your constant attention and will distract people from your leaving the table to answer your cell phone halfway through dinner. If you’re lucky, they may like the wine enough not to comment on the fact that your silk blouse is also going to keep you from helping with the dishes.
The Peacemaker: There’s one in every crowd, and with all the other personality types in play, it’s probably a good thing. You spend every holiday dinner on pins and needles waiting for someone to mention politics or religion. You have memorized a carefully compiled list of topics no one will disagree about, like puppies and “The Peanuts Movie,” and Carrie Underwood. You are the person who responds to even the vaguest allusion to Fox News with “How ‘bout those Cats?”
Everyone likes you, but you make them nervous. This is because you are nervous.
Holiday advice: Relax. This year, your job is easy since the conversation can simply be steered to the unfortunate state of the University of Kentucky basketball team. In the unfortunate event that there are Cardinal fans at your Thanksgiving table, consider just drinking the Grateful Dodger’s expensive bottle of wine. That conversation is not going to be pretty and there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, you might consider steering the conversation toward the 2020 Presidential election. There will likely be less bloodshed.
The Monica Geller: Monica Gellers are a little like Martha Stewarts in that they have a well-developed sense of perfection. The main difference is that there is a breakdown between the idea of perfection and the execution. Like the “Friends” character for whom you’re named, you tend to buy lots of things for the holidays that never make it out of the boxes in time for the event. By now, you have started your Christmas shopping and you’re happy with what you’ve bought, but by Christmas, you will have misplaced some of the gifts and will have to buy replacement gifts on Christmas Eve.
Everyone likes you, but no one ever has a chance to talk to you because you spend Thanksgiving like a jack-in-the-box responding to minor disasters in the kitchen. Most of the time, you expend so much energy trying to get everything on the table at once that you barely eat.
Holiday advice: Try this mantra every day between now and all your big holiday events: “It’s okay that I am not a Martha Stewart. I don’t have to be a Martha Stewart. No one likes those people.” By the way, if you’ve never lost a nail or any other inedible object in anything you were cooking for the holidays, if you tend to get dinner on the table within half an hour of when you were planning, and if you consistently remember to light the candles in the Thanksgiving centerpiece, you, my friend, are actually a Martha Stewart. Your standards are just way too high.
And just remember, no matter where you fall in the holiday zodiac, and no matter where your family and friends fall, I suspect we can all agree that we’re lucky to have the people we have, even the ones who complain about everything or never do any of the work.
Even if you’re working too much, or incensed by the neighbor’s Christmas lights going up around Halloween, whether your gravy is flavored with truffle oil that you ordered in September or you forgot to make the gravy at all before you dropped the roasting pan in the sink, even if you don’t manage to head off the door-slamming conversation about refugees at the border, take a minute or two to be thankful for who and what you do have.
So many others have so much less.
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