Two years ago, after the second-worst Christmas of my adult life*, my husband and I wrote, printed, and signed our own "Contract on Christmas." We put it on the top of our decorations box so we see it every year at this time. The Contract is our attempt to restore sanity to the holiday. Here are a few of the highlights:
Article 1: Travel
1.1 There shall be no travel over the holiday season, unless said travel is to someplace warmer and/or more interesting than our home, and is undertaken for the purpose of fun or research. No travel to visit family is allowed.
Article 2: Decorations
2.1 Decorations shall consist of one 4-ft plastic tree, pre-hung with garlands and lights, one nativity set, and one advent wreath.
2.2 The sole exception to article 2.1 shall be items made by the children of this household, which may be hung or displayed for that season.
Article 4: Mass
4.1 All theists in the family shall attend mass, which shall be the highlight of the Christmas season. Christmas is primarily a religious holiday, and therefore the true story of Christmas, the birth of Christ, and the true story of St. Nicholas, will be told to each child in preparation for Christmas.
Article 5: Presents
5.1 Each member of the family over five shall give each other member of the immediate family one and only one modest, thoughtful gift.
Article 6: Food
6.1 Our family shall cooperate to create a nice meal with whatever Christmas goodies are desired. We shall eat this meal while remaining scrupulously polite to each other.
Some of these sound rather draconian and dour, but they aren't, really. Bunny and I have made some Christmas projects together, including an ice wreath (with evergreen and cranberry) to hang on the front porch, and Christmas cards. She loves to plug in the tree. We're only buying the kids one present each (toys, no socks or clothes or practical stuff. Those aren't presents!) But, their grandparents, aunts, and uncles have showered them with presents. We have a huge stack of boxes in our entryway, three times the size of our daughter. Bunny and I baked all weekend to make Christmas treats. I have my Grooveshark Christmas music playing all day long (as long as Dr. Mr. Palimpsest isn't in the house!) In other words, we have Christmas frickin' cheer, OK? We're just trying to maintain a little balance, and a focus on the important things in life.
* The worst Christmas in my adult life is affectionately known as "The Christmas from Hell" among my family members, and it is the reason why I have refused to visit the family of my birth over Christmas for the last ten years.