We have so many holiday traditions here in Canada.
Decorating a Christmas tree. Hanging up stockings. Procuring enough alcohol to soften the blow of your mother-in-law’s passive-aggressive comments. We’ve all gone through a litre of rum (with eggnog optional) after Nana suggests our kids are too spoiled, lazy and picky during Christmas dinner, right?
My family has a long list of traditions that we happily uphold each year. We have a chocolate Advent calendar in the weeks leading up to Christmas, because our poor kids have run out of Halloween candy by the first week of December. We put lollipop lights around our front entranceway since I’m too scared to put Christmas lights on the roof.
And each year, we watch Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas—both the old cartoon and the modern Jim Carrey version. But while the kids just find it funny, I must admit I secretly sympathize with the Grinch character. Sometimes, it really does feel like there’s too much noise, noise, noise around the holidays.
I keep that noise to a minimum in my family by shunning some of even the most popular Christmas traditions. Here are a few:
1. Annual Christmas letters If you’re looking for a way to have your friends laugh behind your back, send out an annual Christmas “brag” letter in which you blather on and on about your kid making the school play. (But be sure to omit the part about how every kid in the school made the play and how yours landed the prestigious non-speaking role of Tree No. 3).
2. Chopping down a fresh tree The only time I use an axe is when it’s a body spray.
3. Mall visit with Santa The lines are too long, the kid always changes her mind about wanting to sit on Santa’s lap after 45 minutes in said line, and the overpriced photo never turns out. But other than that, it’s always pleasant to visit a shopping mall in the middle of December.
4. Elf on the Shelf This product has a cute and catchy name, but it should really be called Big Brother Is Watching You. I’m convinced this tradition was actually hatched by a government agency that’s hoping to make a surveillance state a reality.
5. Fruitcake How did fruitcake even become a holiday staple? Sorry, but nobody actually likes moist raisins in boozy (yet dry) cake you’ve stored in your basement for months.
6. Christmas specials from the 1960s It’s time for Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer to be sent to the Island of Misfit Toys. The stop-motion animation makes everything look slightly creepy, and the shrill tone that’s heard every time Rudolph’s nose lights up makes me fear the Emergency Broadcast System has been activated.
7. Midnight church service If I’m going to stay awake with my kids until midnight in the last week of December, it’s going to be with Ryan Seacrest serving as the host from Times Square, with special guest appearances by Taylor Swift and U2.
8. Coordinating lights with the neighbours Just about every city has a Candy Cane Lane, in which the neighbours all agree to jack up their hydro bills by 400 percent so they can put on a brilliant light show. But honestly, I don’t see my neighbours from about the middle of November until early May. I live in Ottawa, one of the coldest capitals in the world, not Vegas.
9. Carolling around the neighbourhood Dressing in Victorian-era garb, singing off-key with my family and demanding figgy pudding from my neighbours is just not my idea of a jolly good time. And what would happen if somebody did bring us some figgy pudding? I’d rather eat fruitcake.
I guess I probably sound Grinchy, but there is at least one tradition I embrace: I never fail to get all warm and fuzzy when I see our kids excitedly tearing into their presents under the tree and discovering the exact item they put on their wish list. Then again, the warm and fuzzies usually wear off a few weeks later, when the holiday credit card bills show up.
A version of this article appeared in our December 2015 issue with the headline, "Daddy grinch," p. 48.
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