See the picture above? It’s Clara helping to decorate this year’s Christmas tree.
When did the tree go up? Yesterday. December 9.
While we were decorating, William informed me this his Snapchat Memories had just told him we put up the tree on the exact same date last year. And for us, December 9 isn’t even that late. We sometimes don’t get it up until the 15th or so, and a few years back we put it up on the first day of holiday break: December 20 or thereabouts.
I could make the argument that I like to put the tree up a bit later so it stays fresh longer, that I really enjoy keeping the tree around until we’re a week or more into January. And that’s true.
But it’s also true that I’m rarely on top of things enough to have everything in place to get the tree earlier than that. In theory, I like to start decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving, but in practice, that usually means moving the bins of decorations up from the basement on Sunday (with Christmas music playing in the background), actually starting to dig into it on Monday, putting up a few things on Tuesday, hanging the stockings Wednesday, and then getting around to the tree ten days later or so.
And not once has anyone showed up at my house with a badge and decided to take away my Holiday Mom Permit.
I was at the grocery store yesterday and saw a display of chocolate Advent calendars. Knowing that my sister-in-law Jenna had looked unsuccessfully for them the last couple times she’d braved the store, I picked up three for her kids. When I dropped them off last night, my nieces and nephew didn’t complain, “Why didn’t you get these on December 1?” Instead, they did what any self-respecting kid would do, and cheered. Because candy. (And now they get to “catch up” on the missed days. Bonus.
Nobody showed up to arrest Jenna for being a negligent holiday mom.
Whenever I watch old movies and read books set in bygone eras, I’m struck by how late they shopped, how they’d wait until Christmas Eve to trim the tree. If even the quintessential mom and housewife, Donna Reed in “It’s A Wonderful Life” didn’t drag out her Rubbermaid bin of ornaments until December 24, should we really hold ourselves to a higher standard?
My point: despite what Instagram would have us believe, there’s no such thing as “too late” to get the tree up, or “too late” to decide to get an Advent calendar, or “too late” to make cookies. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, when most of the pressure of shopping has passed and we have a slower schedule, is a great time to bake and is still perfectly acceptable for listening to Christmas music and enjoying the tree.
No matter when you start, it counts. A tree is just as enjoyable after December 9th – or 19th. Christmas will still come if you missed the first week of chocolate countdown – or never count it down that way at all. Santa will still love your cookies if you don’t get around to making them until 5 PM on Christmas Eve.
Let’s remove a hard-and-fast “start date” from our particular list of Perfect Holiday Mom pressures, shall we? This year we’ve simply got enough to worry about without adding deadlines to our plate. If you haven’t gotten around to something yet, you have a couple choices: do it as soon as you can, or remove it from your list.
Whichever you choose, try to do it without guilt. Take it from me: you are not the only one who’s “behind” – if being “behind” on celebration is even a thing – and chances are good nobody besides you will ever even notice.
-Signed, a Chronically Late Holiday Mom Whose License Is Still Valid