It’s the Most Stressful Time of the Year

This is the time of year that traditions are a hot topic. Family traditions, national traditions—in a world where change is the only constant, it seems to comfort people to fall back on doing the same old thing year after year.
Of course once you’ve gone eyesocket-to-eyesocket with the Grim Reaper, shaken his hand, played a hand of bridge, exchanged emails, and promised to keep in touch, you develop a new perspective on old habits. Over the years I’ve had time to really think about the things we do without thinking about them, and I have a few thoughts on the subject of family traditions.
Traditions can become burdens when two sets of rituals collide in one family, like after a married couple has children. Suddenly everyone on both sides has a vested interest in where you go and what you do every Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or Zombie Je—I mean, Easter. Judgment is passed on an annual basis. How far one is willing to schlep three squalling, chomping shamblers becomes a measure of how much you love Grandma.
My advice? Lay down the law as soon as you can. If you spend the first two years carting your shamblers around to one set of grandparents after another (which can really add up when you factor in all the divorces, remarriages, infections, and shotgun mishaps common in today’s modern families) you’ll be expected to do it every year until the Grim Reaper finally takes pity on you and comes back for a final visit. Set your traditions right away, and ideally you should keep everyone’s expectations low. Then if one year you actually do want to drive your shamblers to six different houses in three days (which is unimaginable to me; I think I’d rather take a brain-destroying blow to the head) it will be a pleasant surprise instead of an expected obligation.
And don’t forget to create traditions within your own nuclear family. My little shamblers love making treats and crafts for the holidays. Some years they decorate a poster as a gift (I always have to go back to the craft store for more dried blood brown and gore green—they love self-portraits), and sometimes they bake lady fingers for Santa Claus. They best part is that Santa doesn’t seem to like lady fingers that much, so there’s always plenty for us on Christmas morning while we’re opening presents.
And speaking of presents, let’s talk a little bit about gifts for our shamblers. We want our kids to appreciate the non-commercial aspect of the holiday season—when we’re not trampling our neighbors to get at that Hot New Toy that’s selling on Ebay for three hundred dollars and will depreciate to twenty by February. Here’s a little tip: your kids only care how much you spend if you care. In my house a three hundred game system is no more loved and cherished than the severed head I picked up for free on Black Friday. Kids live up to their parents’ expectations, not the other way around.
So relax, enjoy your holidays, and don’t forget to keep an ear out for carolers. One final bit of advice: the ones who slur while they sing are easier to catch. They are slow runners and prone to falling down.

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