A step by step guide...
Christmas in the 70s
1. Mid-October: When the Sears Roebuck and J.C. Penney’s Christmas catalogs come in the mail, give them to the kids and tell them to circle what they want. Order about a quarter of it. Do not order the rock polisher they keep asking for.
2. Continue about your normal routine until the second week of December.
3. Check the TV Guide for the dates and times when all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials will air. Plan accordingly so the kids don’t miss them again this year. You don’t want to have to listen to Jessica crying about having to wait ‘til next year to see Rudolph.
4. Make a large container of Chex Mix to have on hand. Restock the liquor cabinet and be sure to purchase plenty of Crown Royal and the ingredients for pina coladas. Harveys Bristol Cream is good to have on hand during the holiday season as well. Do not forget both green and red maraschino cherries.
5. Around December 15th drag the fiberglass tree up from the cellar along with the box of Christmas decorations.
6. First, spray everything with several aerosol cans of fake snow.
7. String the tree with blinking, multicolored lights. Spend 45 minutes trying to find the one bulb on the string that’s burned out and thus making all of the other lights in the string not work. Replace that bulb. Become tangled in cords. Go into the den for a cigarette to calm down.
8. Come back in and add an extra shot of rum to your eggnog before hanging red and gold balls on the tree. These would be the Styrofoam balls covered in a layer of silky thread. They only look nice for about five minutes out of the box because the thread always get snagged on the tree branches and starts to fray and unravel. Spray some aerosol Aquanet hairspray on them. It might work. It might not. It also might make the ornaments more flammable, especially if they’re close to the lights, but c’est la vie. All these fire prevention tips are overrated anyway.
9. Cover the entire tree with tinsel. All of it. You don’t even want to see that tree. You just want to see a big, glowing pyramid of blinking lights and tinsel in your living room picture window.
10. Take the children downtown to visit Santa. Snap a couple Polaroids of the event. Give them each a candy cane and get home in time to watch “Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey.”
11. Pick up a pack of Christmas cards the next time you’re in the Hallmark store on Main Street. Maybe something in an elegant Currier & Ives style this year. Run home and write them out and then stop by the post office later for a pack of thirteen cent stamps.
12. Windex the protective vinyl coverings on your living room set and dust your ornate, gilt, rain lamp so your home looks nice for Christmas guests. Water the terrarium while you’re at it and stick a ceramic elf in the soil for holiday cheer.
13. Go downtown to the Sears distribution center to pick up your order while the kids are at school. Wrap everything and hide it in the shed outside where they can’t find it. If you run out of wrapping paper, just use the funny pages.
14. Plan Christmas menu: canned ham, fruit cocktail, Watergate salad, green bean casserole, jellied cranberry salad, Hawaiian punch with rainbow sherbet, nutty cheese ball, fruit cake...
15. Attend the children’s public school Christmas pageant that is complete with a manger scene. Wish everyone a Merry Christmas.
16. Come home and save cat from choking to death on tinsel for the sixty-fifth time.
17. Put on the Donny and Marie Christmas album. Dust off The Carpenters’ “Merry Christmas, Darling” and that annoying Chipmunks record the kids love so much.
18. Dress the girls in matching, floor length, red velvet, empire-waisted, high-collared gowns with white ruffled cuffs. Put the boys in corduroys, plaid button ups with dog-ear collars and matching Hunter green vests. Throw on your new bright red pants suit with the attached silk scarf, finish with a spritz of L’Air du Temps and praise polyester! No more ironing! You are now ready to go to the Christmas Eve service at church.
19. On Christmas morning get the flashbulbs ready and take several photos of the kids opening their Lite-Brites and Slinkies. Relax while Matthew plays with his Starsky and Hutch car and the girls prance around in their new Wonder Woman and Bat Girl Underoos.
20. Slip into your new jumpsuit, wing your hair and put the canned ham in the oven along with a Mrs. Smith’s pumpkin pie.
21. Enjoy dinner with the family on the rec room pool table which you have covered with a plastic tablecloth printed with bells and wreaths.
22. Let the kids play with their favorite gift: COUSINS. The adults can have Irish coffee, fruit cake and a few Benson & Hedges in the family room while the snow falls outside (because it ALWAYS snows on Christmas).
1. Early September, arrange photo shoot for family Christmas card. Coordinate matching outfits of khakis and plaid button ups. Get teeth whitened and hair highlighted. Practice several poses with the family: jumping in the air, sitting in the grass, walking away from the camera while the little ones toddle adorably behind…
2. After your mid-September photo shoot, be sure to head over to the mall to admire the Christmas displays in the stores. Then go get a pumpkin spice latte to really get in the holiday spirit even though it’s 80 degrees out and technically still summer.
3. Go to Costco and purchase several inflatable Santas and snowmen and a herd of light-up, wicker reindeer for your front yard. Buy so many lights that your home will look like the Las Vegas strip of Christmas come December.
4. Find out the “must-have” toys this year. Start researching. Make a game plan for Black Friday.
5. The week before Thanksgiving begin decorating your home for Christmas. Think elaborate. Each child needs a tree in his or her room. Don’t forget that Ava wants a PINK tree in her room. Ayden would prefer a Fortnite Christmas theme in his room. Maybe use actual dental floss instead of tinsel?
6. Have an anxiety attack trying to decide between getting a Douglas Fir and a Fraser Fir. Look for organic, locally sourced Christmas trees from sustainable farms only. Ask the Internet for help.
7. Spend the next 45 minutes in a heated online debate with a total stranger from Illinois arguing about “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Now “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is stuck in your head, but at least it isn’t “Baby Shark.”
8. Hire a professional tree decorator to come and string the LED lights on the Fraser Fir which you chose because the Internet said it was the number one pick for Christmas trees seven years running. Worry that the warm white lights you chose are too “90s” and maybe you should have gone retro-chic with the rainbow lights, which might actually be too “70s” and then wish you’d have gone super-retro and asked if real, beeswax candles were available because how totally Instagram Influencer would that be? Except fires. No, scrap the candle idea. Go with the warm white.
9. Decide to make a quaint popcorn garland. Make sure the popcorn is NON-GMO only.
10. Do not be alarmed that the Christmas tree has been dyed black - BLACK. It’s okay. The tree decorator assured you that BLACK Christmas trees were “THE thing” this year. Remember the upside down Christmas tree from a few years ago? How ridiculous was that trend? Black Christmas trees will, however, be timeless. Probably. I mean, at least they aren’t blood red like the robes from Handmaid’s Tale, which you haven’t actually ever seen a single episode of, but know about because all of your friends from college who you haven’t seen in at least 15 years post about it constantly.
11. Stage a complicated tree lighting ceremony for Thanksgiving evening, but make sure you hurry up with the whole Thanksgiving dinner thing because you need to hit the stores. Black Friday actually starts Thursday night now and you want to be first in line to get a hundred dollars worth of LOL dolls, which your kid may or may not already have because they are “surprise” toys and you don’t know what you’re getting. What kind of evil marketing genius came up with that scam? Can we please drag them through the streets and publicly shame them? PLEASE?? You just spent 79 bucks on something you already spent 79 bucks on last month!!!
12. Admire your holiday photo cards when they arrive via FedEx. The sepia tone looks fantastic. Praise your own good taste. Your family definitely looks like something out of the Pottery Barn catalog. Actually, no. The Restoration Hardware catalog. Sigh with relief that you chose “Happy Holidays” over “Season’s Greetings.” You’d agonized over that for days. Now drop the already addressed, pre-printed cards off at the post office and pay $437.29 in postage.
13. Host a holiday cookie exchange. Be sure to remind guests that it is a GRAIN-FREE cookie exchange because you and several other guests are suffering from wheat belly, and possibly leaky gut (at least according to your acupuncturist). But wait, this year literally everyone is Keto. OMG the mental clarity is flipping amazing, not to mention we are all emaciated. Mix a stick of grass-fed butter with some stevia, form it into balls. Bam. Keto Christmas cookies. Genius.
14. Take the children to gingerbread house making class, Seasonal Craft Explosion, Reindeer Fest, Santa Days Explosion, and the Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Christmas/ Pagan Winter Solstice Hot Yoga Celebration of Light. You do not want the kids to miss a single event this December. They will not.
15. Become deeply concerned when you read on Facebook that chestnut praline lattes contain carcinogens. Virtually sign some sort of online petition about Starbucks and chemicals. Order an latte anyway, skinny with four Splendas. Fake. News.
16. Begin Christmas dinner. Purchase a set of Spode dinnerware. Order an organic, humanely raised, pastured turkey who was treated so well that he was named Ethan and kept as a pet before being slaughtered (yes, humanely). Then go to Whole Foods and buy a Field Roast because you can’t bear to actually eat Ethan.
17. Plan 35 alternative Christmas dinners for raw vegan, gluten-free, Paleo, Whole 30, Keto guests.
18. Make a hip Christmas playlist on Spotify that combines remixed classics from the 40s and 50s with Indie covers. Think Dub-Step Rudolph followed by “Have Yourself an Intersectional Christmas.”
19. Burn your arm making homemade cranberry sauce. Jeez, that stuff is like molten lava. Toss the whole pot and use the Trader Joe’s jarred version. Much safer.
20. Return from Trader Joe’s having spent $146.00 on sugar plum cheese, candy-cane Jo-Jos, and a Grump Tree
21. Take some CBD oil that you heard about on a podcast. Because stress. Why can’t you just relax on the couch and watch Holiday Baking Challenge in peace?? Text your Life coach and ask them to “hold space” for you to get through the most anxious time of year.
22. Bake some non-binary “gender-bread” individuals.
23. Attend the children’s December Pageant at their Waldorf/Montessori Hybrid Charter Preschool. Post several photos of your daughter dressed as a Kwanzaa candle on Instagram along with a video of your son singing a Chanukah song in Hebrew even though you are not Jewish and Chanukah actually ended three weeks earlier. Wish everyone a good month. That can’t offend anyone, right? Enjoy a nice kombucha on tap with the other parents after the show ends.
24. Make homemade, wheat-free, peppermint scented, red and green play-dough to entertain the children during their school break.
25. Order the children tasteful Scandinavian minimalist, Kevlar backpacks for school and be sure to have them monogrammed. Consider getting the vests too. Get the vests.
26. Blind panic when you realize that OH MY GOD, you completely forgot to do Elf on the Mother-Freaking Shelf. Immediately locate said Elf and pose him on the edge of your toilet with a fishing pole and several marshmallows floating in the toilet bowl. Take a bunch of pictures of him for social media.
27. Check and see how many “likes” and “shares” your Elf pics got.
28. Then compulsively check Twitter with a sense of both dread and anticipation. What did they tweet NOW? Good lord.
29. Order all of your family members DNA testing kits for gifts this year. Maybe there’s some hope that you aren’t 100% white European colonist oppressors after all?
30. Let the kids watch the classic Christmas specials whenever they want. You have downloaded them all onto their iPads for everyone’s convenience. They’re also all available in some combination on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go and whatever else your spouse put on the TV and if you could figure out the damn HDMI inputs you might actually be able to watch something yourself for once in your life.
31. Ava and Baylee have seen Charlie Brown 75 times. Today. Ayden is singing the Heat Miser song. Totes cute. Snapchat it with a filter of yourself as a deer, because you look way cuter as a deer, AND also add it to your Instagram because your ex from college still watches ALL of your stories.
32. Realize that Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is an archaic, outdated piece of garbage that promotes non-inclusivity and bullying. How did people ever think this was okay? Rudolph is CANCELED. Drag some people in a Facebook group for daring to even mention it.
33. You are way too woke for Christmas.
34. Explain sadly to the children that no, Heat Miser isn’t real, but Global Warming is and no, there will not be a white Christmas this year because it’s seventy degrees out in late December again.
35. On Christmas Eve, arrange professionally wrapped gifts under the black Christmas tree. Set out a plate of date and coconut raw energy bars and a glass of cashew mylk for Santa. After the kids go to bed stay up until 4am putting all the toys together. Drink biodynamic wine out of a quart sized Mason jar. It’s okay, no one can see you. I mean, unless you take a selfie, which maybe might be kind of like, ironic funny. Except you look like crap, so filter the heck out of it first.
36. Do some breathing exercises. It will all be over soon and the kids love the holidays so much. It’s totally worth it. Think of the memories.
This piece is excerpted from my essay "Christmas in the Age of Social Media" and originally appeared inSCARY MOMMY'S GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS. My debut memoir THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL LIFE came out in June! If you enjoyed this, you'll love my book too.
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