How to avoid getting Yankee swamped this Holiday season

I love the Holidays! And everything that goes with it. From the lights, the Christmas tree, the festive store windows, the excitement in my kids, everything,  but the stress.


Stress that was completely unknown to me until I settled in Maine.

The Christmas related stress I knew entailed making sure you have your Christmas dinner planned plus the two days afterwards as stores are closed in the Netherlands. That was it: checking if I had enough milk, yogurt and bread.

Now: Holiday party invitations starting to arrive as early as late November. Some have a dress code, some don’t. What do you wear when there isn’t a dress code? Are you going to be warm and comfortable or opt for a dress when you kind of know you probably have to take your snowy shoes off and you end up feeling chilled to the bone walking on stocking feet all evening?

Some have Yankee Swaps with a clear indication (‘buy a gift or ornament for about $5’), others don’t come with instructions. Would my gift be appropriate? Not too much, or too little? Am I supposed to give a gift to the hostess? If it says: “No need to bring anything” does that really mean nothing? I don’t want to be the only one arriving empty handed (has happened before!)

Who do you send a cart to? All teachers, or just the classroom teacher? Are the kids supposed to hand out their own Christmas cards? If so, to just their friends or to the entire class? But how about my boy in Middle school? He attends four different classes, so basically the entire grade?


And what about gifts? We made a donation to the PTSA already. I baked cookies for the Teacher Cookie swap, about 46 of them. Do I still need to bring in gifts for each teacher? And again, when the kids were younger and had one teacher whose name I actually knew, it seemed fairly easy. Now they have four different teachers for four different subjects, student teachers, special teachers and all kinds of aids who help them at different times and activities.

The neighbors, the music teachers, friends, co-workers: what is appropriate and what is expected?

I make myself a cup of coffee, eat the last home-baked cookie while reading over the recipe for salted caramels one more time. Am I going to stress myself all silly and make more home-made goodies, for the bus drivers, the crossing guard, the librarian, all the neighbors, the mom who drives my girl to soccer, the dad who sometimes brings my boy home after fencing. Shit! The Fencing teacher!!! She needs a gift! Or at least a card!


No, I am done.


A cookie Swap shouldn’t become a Cookie swamped, Holidays shouldn’t be centered around a stressed-out mom, too tired to hang up the Christmas cards or make dinner because of all the baking she did.

Cards that made it to the mailbox are great, and for those of you who didn’t receive one: sorry, but I still love you.

Teachers know I appreciate them, as I am one of the first parents to sign up for help when needed. There is only one parent in the entire school who makes Dutch Christmas wreath cookies for the cookie swap, so they know I did my share. Neighbors know me hopefully well enough to feel appreciated, even when they don’t receive home-baked goodies from me: I still wave and smile in passing!

To all my friends near and far: you know I love you. You know I would do anything for you when you need it. But I can’t make you cookies this year, or buy you a pair of Christmas socks you probably never wear. I didn’t mail out Christmas presents overseas: with the saving in postage I am half way there to buy myself a ticket and wouldn’t that be much nicer?!


I am going back to my ‘Dutch Christmas stress’ and the best thing is: here the stores are actually open the day after Christmas! So I only need to think about food for one day!


Hallelujah and happy holidays to you!







Edith Schriever

About Edith Schriever

I am a Maine-igrant from the Netherlands. While my scientist husband fell in love with the beautiful research institute here, I fell in love with Mount Desert Island. Mountains, ocean, wild life, peace and quiet! A culture change? Yes, a bit. Americans are not at all like the Jerry Springer audience I saw on TV when living in the Netherlands, well, at least not everyone. Portions are big and toilets small and low; I have learned to embrace the cultural differences.