Millennial Mom: This is the year to do an over-the-top Christmas

A house with many Christmas decorations and lights
In 2020, you can’t have too many Christmas lights.
(HannamariaH/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

I’m a big fan of Christmas. I love wearing cozy sweaters, the scents of nutmeg, peppermint and pine, and, of course, the decorations.

To me, the opening scene of “Home Alone” is quintessential Christmas: There are white lights, garland and family chaos. This is my point of reference for an ideal holiday setting, and this year I want to share with my children an appreciation for the season beyond the excitement of getting gifts.

We have been indoors for months doing what we can to protect ourselves and slow the spread of COVID-19. Initially, I did a pretty good job of keeping the kids entertained. We did art projects, took daily nature walks, and midweek trips to the beach.

But after seven months, the activities started to fizzle. Frankly, I got tired of being the day camp counselor and school teacher for my four and six-year-olds. Not only was I drained, but I was neglecting other essential tasks, such as finding a full-time job and thoroughly organizing my house.

Now, most days, the kids are bored.

They miss playing with other children. Every day my daughter mentions the preschool friends she hasn’t seen since March. When I try to lift their spirits by telling them, “today is a good day,” it usually backfires. They get excited and ask if we can go to the Children’s Museum, or Sea World, or some other place that is closed due to the pandemic.

As parents, we always want our children to be happy. This year has been challenging because there are so many things out of our control. I can’t fix my children’s problems. There’s not much I can do about my daughter missing her preschool friends. Pre-pandemic, I didn’t think to exchange numbers with the other parents because I felt that tagging along on her brother’s park playdates was all the social life a 4-year-old needed. As a result, she doesn’t even have the option of virtual playdates.

I’m sure Christmas has enough magic to lift their spirits. I set out to create a “Home Alone” style over-the-top decorative Christmas this year, complete with plenty of holiday music and fresh pastries.

My plans haven’t quite worked out so far.

Target was my first stop when setting out to bring my holiday plans to fruition. The store reserves a few aisles for seasonal decor near the patio furniture. They have large light-up displays for the folks who are really into Christmas. We decided on a cute white cat wearing a holiday hat. We didn’t stop there. My 4-year-old fell in love with a brown Santa who shakes his hips as he sings “Jingle Bells.”

After a few more stops, we came home with more wreaths than we have exterior doors and enough decorations to adorn a much larger home. I trimmed every window with lights. We attached big red bows to the blinds and the banister; there are wooden holiday signs and plenty of tinsel.

For some reason, though, I did not consider my subpar decorating skills. I just freestyled it, letting the kids help as much as possible. Eclectic is the best word to describe our holiday decorations.

Our leaning Christmas tree is the centerpiece of our holiday decor.

Ebone Monet's artificial, leaning Christmas tree.
(Ebone Monet)

We bought the artificial tree when we moved the family to San Diego. The plan was to replace it eventually, but four and a half years later and it is still here. Only this year, my husband misplaced the tree base. I saw this as a sign to get a new, fuller, more realistic-looking tree. Personally, l prefer real trees. The artificial tree is another compromise in our marriage.

My husband is so stuck on his plastic tree that he went to two stores to buy supplies to rig it to stand upright. Now, instead of the pine needles he dislikes, there are wood chips and screws.

Every time the kids sneak to steal a candy cane, I worry the tree will topple. The kids love it because we let them decorate it with the many ornaments they made in preschool, plus taking mints without our permission gives them a thrill.

I hope these extra holiday touches lift their spirits. Most of the time, I can not dedicate more than a few hours of my undivided attention to the children. But these days I’m doing small things like making hot cocoa and playing holiday music softly throughout the house once my son’s virtual class wraps. We wrote letters to Santa and the kids were happy to drop the letters in the mailbox.

We also plan to take the kids to a few of San Diego’s famous holiday neighborhood displays. I remember my adventurous aunt loading my cousins and me into her Nissan Sentra for what felt like a long haul to Candy Cane Lane. I realize now we were just in Poway. I was awestruck. I remember thinking that each house was more magnificent than the one before. Those trips are childhood highlights. I am sure my children will respond in the same way.

So, even though our holiday decorations don’t remotely resemble the ones from “Home Alone,” the kids don’t seem to mind — save for my son, who keeps asking, “why are the lights over our garage blue?” Still, they seem happy and excited, mostly in anticipation of their new toys, but I think they’re also enjoying the togetherness and Christmas cheer.