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Christmas Afternoon Sucks, I Said It

Honestly the magic of Christmas ends on Christmas Eve, change my mind.

Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

Ah, Christmas Eve. One of the most magical nights of the whole year, as far as I’m concerned. All the presents are wrapped and under the tree. All the lights are twinkling, and the stockings are heavy with tiny gifts. My holiday playlist is on, there’s warm cider on the stove (with a “special” spiked version available for the adults), and the kids can open that special big window on their advent calendars while wearing their cute new warm holiday jammies. We have a fire crackling, piles of blankets, my great-grandmother’s Christmas cookies, and not a single to-do item left on my holiday checklist. The complications of dealing with relatives won’t start until tomorrow.

If I’m really lucky, here in Montana, there’s often big puffs of snow falling on the pines outside.

Everyone gets to open one gift — usually a book — and they treasure it in the light of the fire as I am filled with gratitude, simple joy, and a hope for peace across the land.

And then there’s the complete and utter hell of Christmas afternoon.

You know the moment I’m talking about: it’s the moment that the last present is opened and chaos and reality set in. It’s the moment that you realize your kids woke up to open presents at 5:45 AM, it’s now only 7:30 AM, and you have a solid 12 hours to go before bedtime, and no one — not your kids, and certainly not you — is going to nap. No, I take that back. Your partner will nap on the couch, completely unaware that you are are living out the little-known sequel called The Nightmare After Christmas.

The first horror is the Aftermath of Presents. Waste is scattered everywhere — it looks worse than those pictures of the plastic garbage island floating in the Pacific. And then, to your right, your youngest is playing with a cardboard box instead of any one of their costly presents. Your older kid? Sulking about the one thing they didn’t get. Your middle kid? Shut in their room already, for reasons unknown, and you won’t ask. Suddenly, thoughtful giving (not to mention so much of your hard-earned money) looks like a lot of waste.

Did anyone listen to your pleas to throw away wrapping paper during the gift opening? Did you get a robe and an empty stocking from your family again? Is the harsh, cold light of Christmas Day significantly worse that the fire and candles and moonlight from the night before?

Yes, it is.

I think the day sucks, and I don’t even have to go to church.

On top of the present massacre, there’s the cooking. Everyone talks about the joy of feasting on Christmas Day, but those are just the people who don’t have to cook it. As if we haven’t spent every day from Black Friday to Christmas Eve trying to make everyone happy for the holidays, parents have the final insult of having to supply not one but three holiday meals to our families in a single day. No, the Grinch does not fly down the mountain in a giant sled and supply everyone with roast beast; it’s mom in the kitchen, cooking something “special” while also being asked by children to assemble plastic sh*t in between peeling, cooking, and mashing potatoes or whatever.

It’s like Thanksgiving except subtract the part where other people know to help you.

And then, of course, the options to fill the hours are limited. Most places around town are closed. And going out to do something fun — like sledding or seeing a movie — usually leads to disaster because, guess what? Everyone got five hours of sleep and ate five pounds of sugar as soon as they woke up.

Did I mention that your in-laws are here? They are here.

Okay, fine. We’ll watch a family movie all together in the living room. And yes, it will be a kids’ movie that you have seen one billion times. Watching it without dying of boredom will be an act of what your yoga teacher once called, “Practicing the Art of Wonder through Radical Presence,” before you left class early because clearing your mind sounded too hard.

Now it’s 4 p.m. You’ve still got four solid hours before you can even think about starting up the bedtime routine. Food and drink of any kind no longer bring you pleasure. The “white Christmas” of last night has transformed into the chore of shoveling the driveway. Your new robe is kind of itchy.

You look around at all of the new crap around the tree and realize that you have to find space in your house to put all that crap. Suddenly the Squishmallows the size of a St. Bernard seem like a bad idea. You punch one when no one is looking. It kind of wakes up your husband, who is napping on the couch.

Your oldest kid, while surrounded by so much new stuff, declares that he is boooored. Your youngest is working on her Christmas list for next year, causing you to have what is either a miniature stroke or an eggnog overdose. The symptoms, according to WebMD, are very similar.

You suddenly realize that truly achieving Peace on Earth would likely require the eradication of the human race, which is a little depressing. You look around, deep in your soul, for the gratitude that you felt last night, but all you find is a half-eaten candy cane, which has been stuck to the ass of your new holiday pajamas, for who knows how many hours.

There is no Santa. There is no God. There is no napping. There is no joy. There is only the hell of Christmas afternoon.

Sometimes all we can do is wait another year for Christmas Eve to roll around again.