Holiday Headaches


I had one today. The kind that makes me go back to bed and wish I had a prescription for something stronger then Tylenol.

My Mom used to get these. Sometimes she would make it through the whole holiday ordeal and get the headache on the 26th. As a kid, I was always disappointed when she would retreat to her bed, hoping not to throw-up. She was going to miss all the “fun”. As I got older and had kids of my own, I gained a new perspective on this affliction.

“Everything has to be perfect”. For who? “We need this food and that food”. Why? “The gifts must be exactly what everyone wants and needs, come in under budget and be wrapped to coordinate with this years decoration theme”. Seriously? ” The tree must be fresh-cut, perfect in shape and form and smell like a 1950’s mentholated chest rub”. Who says?, Norman Rockwell?, Martha Stewart, Jimmy Stewart? This can not go on!

We are all to blame for buying (pun!) into the commercialization of our holiday. I suppose post WWII is when it really started. It wasn’t long before we were addicted to the trap of “if you buy this you will feel wonderful and everyone will think you are wonderful”. Commercialism can be defined as “the attitude or actions of people who are influenced too strongly by the desire to earn money or buy goods rather than by other values” according to Merriam-Webster. We are hamsters on the wheel, caught in a vicious cycle of buy and spend or guilt and dissatisfaction. This hamster wheel is the root of the Holiday Headache problem. We must get off. I realized I was on the hamster wheel rather early in my adult life. I have been trying to get off or at least cut back ever since.

Many years ago I started making tins of cookies to bring to various family functions in lieu of buying gifts for the ever increasing number of cousins and nieces and nephews and spouses etc. Every family would get a big tin full of cookies. I felt good, having poured myself into a labor of love for those I loved. Those that received the cookies got a very nice gift. Over time, ingredients got more and more expensive, and still the families grew. My daughter started helping me. This was a great bonus! I love doing this with her. However, costs… We cut back to bringing a tray to each family gathering. We were still making at least 15 kinds of cookies. This took days. And no, we do not make ahead and freeze them. Yuk. This year I decided that 3 kinds of cookies was just going to have to be enough. We would make a few favorites. Peanut Butter Kisses for Andrew and Randy, “Poop” cookies for the Boppa, and New Zealand Holly cookies for Annie and myself. Then we realized that Rory loves the Yuletide Meringues. And we just couldn’t go without making the English Toffee. Annie needed to add the Gingersnaps. We were back up to 6 kinds.

We baked all day Thursday. I decorated all day Friday (the New Zealand Holly cookies are labor intensive). I still had shopping to do and cooking for the parties on Saturday. Before I realized it, 9pm and come and gone. I could feel it starting…

I woke up Saturday morning with a twinge. I knew it was there. I took 2 ibuprofen and had my morning coffee. I was hoping it was just stiff muscles and the weather. No such luck. I took a few more OTC remedies and went to bed. I had a few hours before I had to be somewhere. I could stop at the deli and get stuff as my contribution to the parties, I planned. I don’t know why THE COOKIES aren’t enough. Because I volunteered to bring more, that’s why.

At noon I gave in. I had my husband make a few phone calls. The weather was going to get ugly also and I just could not cope with both a headache and bad road conditions.

At the moment the headache is better. The current stress has passed. We are still, however, a few days away from Christmas. The kids are all coming home. I haven’t purchased a single gift yet. I don’t even know what I am cooking. The hamster wheel beckons in my peripheral vision. If I jump on and start running everything will get done and will be great. Everyone will be happy forever…

Nope, It doesn’t work that way. This is the year that the hamster wheel gets dragged to the curb. No more Holiday Headaches for me.

Every one of us needs to learn how to live with less. Stop consuming just because bigger is better and more is merrier. Stop over-spending, over-eating, and over-expecting too much from each other. Love and kindness. This is truly all we really need.

Happy Yule!




  1. marjee says

    You are a wise woman Gina. I have tried to abandon the “Wheel” many times over the years. I have pretty much succeeded I think….Well, maybe not. I added some pretty good squirts of WD 40 to it this year. I missed you at the family party. Even though the memories of the Christmas headaches can come flooding back, I still shed a few tears that you could not come. I love your eloquent posts..

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