The holidays are over and 2016 has begun. I can relax.

I love the holidays. I love everything about them: the Christmas music, the decorations, the lights, the cookies, the shopping, the gift wrapping, the Christmas dinner, even the corny Christmas movies on TV–I love it all. I don’t even mind shoveling snow at Christmas. As part of the holiday ambience, what works better than snow?

And, this year we had the perfect “Hallmark” Christmas, lightly snowing off and on all day, and a lacy, fat-flake snow just as we sat down to dinner. Bing Crosby couldn’t have dreamed anything better. 115But, (you knew there was a “but” coming), two months of Christmas is too much. Maybe it’s my age, but with each year going by faster than the year before, it feels like I’ve just packed up the decorations and wrapping paper when it’s time to get them out again. With the retail marketing, television holiday programming, municipal decorating, etc. beginning the day after Halloween, Christmas doesn’t come once a year anymore, but every ten months.

These days the need to cram as much fun and meaning and profit as possible into the holidays frequently leaves me emotionally breathless. Again, maybe it’s my age, but this two-month long feeding frenzy of merriment, poignancy, and advertising is exhausting.

Making matters (and, I suppose, my cynicism) worse, I live in a major ski resort town where the stores and streets wear their holiday lighting throughout the ski season (and some stores keep their holidays lights on year-round), so my holiday season lasts about five months. The lights and decorations that once made the world feel wondrous, even magical, are now just an ordinary part of downtown for about half the year.

The startling beauty of Christmas lights and displays suddenly lighting up dark December nights for two or three weeks, illuminating a path to the new year, is a thing of the past. Today, the abundance and variety of modern holiday lighting competing for our attention creates visual clutter instead of magic. Sometimes, I like to imagine what downtown would look like with just the one massive tree in the center of town lit up, an evergreen or holly wreath (maybe with a red bow) on every door, and a single candle in every window. Just imagining it feels peaceful.

But, in spite of the time crunch, the impossible traffic and parking, a sudden and painful dental issue (an abscessed tooth Christmas week) and my cynicism, I made it. I had a wonderful Christmas, thoroughly enjoying my family, especially my grandchildren. The shopping got done, the packages wrapped and unwrapped, I sang along with all my favorite Christmas tunes, and dined on a lovely prime rib Christmas dinner. Now the leftovers are gone, and the decorations and wrapping paper are put away, and I’m happily settled into a new year.