Mama Hopie’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays When You’ve All But Lost Your Mind

Hopie Headshot (1)By Hopie, Mom of Three

Hey mama. I see you over there looking stressed, tracking your Amazon deliveries, baking like a maniac, trying to really get into the spirit of the season this year. And I see your kids with those relentlessly runny noses getting more and more wound up as the holidays approach. I see them trying to help you by more or less destroying all of your progress, and I see you shouting “CAN YOU PLEASE JUST LEAVE MOMMY ALONE SO THAT I CAN GET US ALL INTO THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT?!?!”

Yep, I see you. I am you. So take a seat, friend, and pour yourself a cup of coffee or wine, or if you’re like me, vodka. And let me share with you my four tips for surviving the holidays when you’ve all but lost your mind.

  1. Make your house smell like a Christmas miracle.

Throw a handful of cloves and a cinnamon stick into a small pan with a few inches of water. Leave it simmering and your house will begin to smell like a gingerbread wonderland. This is the easiest and my all-time favorite thing to do to make things feel merry. Seriously, your house can look like a total dumpster fire, but anyone who walks through your door is going to take a whiff of this magical aroma and think that you really have your shit together.


NOTE: set a timer so that you do not leave it simmering once you leave the house. Burnt cloves do NOT smell like a Christmas miracle, I have learned.

  1. Listen to David Sedaris’s SantaLand Diaries

If there is one podcast I could listen to on repeat during the holiday season, or really any time I need a good dose of dry irreverence (which, to be honest, is always), it will forever be SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris. Sedaris recounts the time in his mid-30s when he worked as the Christmas elf, Crumpet, at Macy’s in Herald Square. Favorite quote:

“I was at the Magic Window for 15 minutes before a man approached me and said ‘you look so stupid.’ I have to admit that he had a point, but still. I wanted to say that at least I get paid to look stupid; that he gives it away for free. But I can’t say things like that because I’m supposed to be merry.”

Couple dressed up for the christmas holidays making stop gesture with her hand denying a situation that thinks wrong

  1. WRITE a holiday wish list of things you actually want and keep it on your phone.

If you’re like me, you might be so swept up in holiday shopping for everyone else that you forget to keep track of what it is that you want. And then your mom texts you repeatedly saying “You still haven’t told me what you want for Christmas!!!” in all caps. And you don’t respond because you are so swept up in holiday shopping for everyone else. And when all is said and done, you end up with three new pairs of ill-fitting pajamas under the tree, each from someone who you never told what you wanted for Christmas. So I just keep a running list on my phone of things I would actually enjoy and bust that out whenever someone asks what I’d like. Here is a sample list from my phone:


  1. Remember that St. Nicholas, the guy who inspired this whole Santa Claus business, is the patron saint of prostitutes, and that he did not care in the least who was naughty and who was nice.

portrait of a little boy on christmas time with angry gesture

Instead, the bishop of Myra, as the story goes, cared about aiding families in need by leaving anonymous gifts at their threshold. He didn’t know who was bad or good or sleeping or awake, he just gave because he thought everyone was worthy of that most generous kind of love.

And so, my friends, are you.

Happy holidays from your sister in the struggle.

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