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Simplifying the holidays – or not

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DECISIONS What will Christmas and New Year's Eve mean for you – a big party or partying at home? (Illustration:

Have you ever lived a longer year? Christmas 2020 we were worried about going out, gathering, celebrating at all. We didn’t have access to Covid vaccines, didn’t know when – or if – that would happen. Vogue, the paragon of fashion, gave us ideas like “The One-Size-Up Jeans” and “The Slipper-Adjacent Slide.” What a difference a year makes.

For Christmas 2021, every catalog and every magazine sparkles with gold sequined ball gowns and promises of “the roaring ’20s” to come. It’s hard to remember – did last year’s sweatpant-fest lockdown really happen? We’re ready to party!

But are we?

For some, the answer is without a doubt, “Yes!” Meredith Barineau, who, with her family, was exceedingly cautious throughout the crux of the pandemic, says, “We are ready to have a party, see friends, and celebrate life and the Christmas season! It’s time to hug people again!”

Another couple says they will spend Christmas, plus the weeks before and after, celebrating in Paris. An impossibility last year, due to travel restrictions and closures of restaurants and stores.

A Tanglewood accountant is also all-in. She says, “We are back to our normal celebration, acting like Covid never happened! Well, not really. But at least for our big family get-together, we are proceeding like normal. Fingers crossed!” “Normal” for this family means all the generations dressing up and using silver and china.

Still, she says, “I have to say that it was kind of fun doing things different last year.” “Different” meant gathering in smaller shifts, outside, distanced.

Many are wanting to celebrate, while keeping some of last year’s simplicity.

A West U licensed social worker and mother of four – a pre-teen, two teens, and a 20 year old – says simpler is better. “We are starting a new tradition of leaving town for a weekend,” she says, “to focus more on each other than on gifts. ...I am thrilled!” She adds that she also did not even open her boxes of Halloween decorations.

Another big celebrator who is streamlining says a family vacation will trump the traditional decking of the halls. “I just don’t have much shopping to do this year, nor do I feel like doing it,” the River Oaks-Crested Butte resident and empty-nester mother of two says. “We are taking a family trip that will take up most of our holiday funds. Then I’m going to London [with my husband] the week before Christmas. He has to go anyway for work, so I’m going to tag along. We will continue to do our [Christmas Eve and Christmas Day] festivities with family dinners, but I’m looking forward to spending time with the kids.”

The Pyne family usually decorates three Christmas trees in their River Oaks home, but no more. “The combination of being older and having older grandkids makes me want to not overdo it like I have in the past,” Tina says. “I am a crazy Christmas decorator. Three friggin’ trees! [This year] I’m paring down to one tree and limited outdoor decorations. That is what we did last year because of Covid. I used to be ‘more is better,’ but now I am ‘less is more.’”

Even now that we are gathering as families again, some are still struggling with clashing opinions that make getting together difficult. One River Oaks mother of two college students says her family’s holiday celebrations will be simplified, but only because she and her family don’t agree on best practices when it comes to staying healthy. “This year my family has decided that everyone must be vaccinated to join in our celebration,” she says. “We usually do a White Elephant and dinner with our extended family, but because some aren’t vaccinated they are not being included.”

Then she adds, “That idea went off like a lead balloon.”

Unlike in past years, when many of our holiday celebrations were dictated by years – decades? – of tradition, not to be tampered with, 2021 presents us with choices. Do we embrace the “new normal,” where less is more, calm prevails, and yoga pants and slippers are de rigueur? Do we take back our normal-normal, seeing friends, exchanging gifts, enjoying family time? Or, do we pull out the sequins and all the stops and get prepped for a month of party-hopping?

Maybe the question is this: When midnight hits and the calendar turns to 2022, do you want to be dancing at a party, or hosting a small Great Gatsby watch party at home? Or, would you just rather be asleep in bed?

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