For years at Christmastime, I shopped ’til I dropped, frantically wrote out cards and baked, entertained, socialized and decorated until, according to my mother, I became the Grinch.

This holiday frenzy was, of course, in addition to grading finals at the end of the semester and working extra hours at my second job at Macy’s.

I would propose cutting down on buying presents and overfrolicking, but no one else wanted to go along with this plan, especially my family, who loved the holidays.

But gradually over the years, because of choices and changes in my life, I have simplified my holidays to be more to my liking and better for my peace of mind.

I have persuaded my friends, some more easily than others, to do something fun in place of exchanging gifts. In the past few years, various friends and I have toured the Victoria Mansion, had lunch at the Royal River Grillhouse, gone to the Festival of Trees at the Saco Museum, attended Christmas concerts at the Italian Heritage Center and ridden around the Old Port on a horse-drawn carriage. Most recently, my friend Sally and I took a bus trip to Newport, Rhode Island, to see the mansions decked out for the holidays, a sight I am still marveling at.

I have a routine. I start off the season by buying some holly. Then I dress up my childhood dolls in their holiday finery and display them. A week or so later I put up and decorate my retro tinsel trees, and to have something under them, I buy myself a few presents.

I do some shopping, mostly for surprise gifts for acquaintances or faraway relatives. I try not to shop at the same place multiple times. However, having usually eaten the Christmas candy I’ve bought for guests, I often do have to return to Haven’s.

Having formerly attended almost every event and party I was invited to, I now limit the number of engagements. There’s only so much time and not enough party clothes.

This year, since I am no longer writing Christmas cards, I’ll have more time to chat with friends and relatives. And I hope to reread my Truman Capote Christmas books, which I treasure. I hope to do some baking, and I’m crossing my fingers that I have friends who are not on diets.

Having listened to piped-in Christmas music – starting, at the latest, Nov. 1 – in my years at the Mall, I can’t say I enjoy it much anymore. But I do make an exception for the soothing voice of James Taylor’s holiday music.

Instead of attending a packed afternoon Mass where I have to scramble to find a seat, I now go to church in the early evening, where I can relax and listen to Christmas carols.

Since I have made my holidays less stressful and more meaningful, I find I am happier. And I am no longer the Grinch.


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