I decided this year that we aren’t celebrating Christmas.
No, we are going to EXPERIENCE it.
My kids are old enough now that the Christmas experiences make sense. When they were really little, the magic of the holidays was there, but not in all its glory. A weeks-old baby can barely even see the tree, you know? And taking a toddler to see Santa is an experiment to see how much you hate your kid and/or yourself.
Now that my kids are of age, we’re going to drink up so much Christmas magic that we will have a raging hangover by the time it’s all done.
Our fun begins the way every holiday should: getting the decorations from the attic. I have vivid, terrifying memories of my dad sitting on the ledge of our attic opening with large boxes in his hands, leaning over and defying gravity to hand them to my mother and, eventually, to my siblings and me. Year after year, I wondered if this would be the Christmas that he would finally fall and break his neck.
My kids needed to experience that fear. I wanted them to stand at the base of our creaking attic ladder and watch as their mother maneuvers impossibly overstuffed and barely-taped-together boxes from the dark corners and into their father’s awaiting hands. The fact that I didn’t plummet to broken bone certainty was just the start of the Christmas magic.
It continued with unpacking the boxes and decorating the tree. This year, the ornament placement fell exclusively to the 3- and 6-year-old. I now have a tree with only the bottom 3 feet adorned with some of the world’s ugliest but most treasured ornaments. My son did teeter on the edge of the sofa long enough to toss a candy cane or two on some of the top boughs as I watched, sipping my hot chocolate and playing the moving “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in my mind.
And, amazingly, we escaped the entire ordeal with shattering only about five or six ornaments because my daughter believes in “cluster hanging” the breakable ones on the bottom branches where the dog’s tail is sure to swing. Magic!
I always leave the outside of the house to my husband, who enlisted the 6-year-old’s help this year (again, cue Clark Griswold). I didn’t ask for details, but a rosy-cheeked little boy proudly told me that the little lights would be twinkling all around the roof, thanks to his help. I looked up to the sky, thanked Christmas magic for keeping my son alive and made a note to secretly delete one of my husband’s Amazon wish list items.
We have even gone to see jolly old St. Nick already. As I got dressed to walk into the fancy hotel with the fancy people who drive the fancy cars, I told the kids to put on their best outfit to see Santa. This, of course, resulted in a very excited Spider-Man and Wonder Woman strolling the mahogany floors and waiting in line next to kids dressed like they were going to church. The magic of the season, though, is that Santa didn’t care at all and only rolled his eyes slightly as my son listed off dozens of superhero toys he would like.
I have fun like this planned all month long: small-town holiday festivals where we test our gastrointestinal strength with food truck delicacies, a trip to a snowy-wonderland-themed indoor water park where the 3-year-old is sure to swallow more chlorinated water than anyone ever should, a trek to the transportation museum for a “Polar Express”-inspired train ride that is dangerously close to bedtime.
We’ll culminate the season with a daylong car ride to see friends and family up North, where I’m hoping Christmas magic brings us snow, the frozen fingertips and the sled-crashing injuries I remember having as a young girl in a very cold Ohio.
How can we afford these adventures? We aren’t buying the kids presents this year. All that money is going toward the EXPERIENCES. Besides, I believe in Santa, and I’m sure he will take care of not disappointing the kids come Dec. 25.
(I’m sorry, did I say “Santa”? I meant “grandparents.”)