“I thought we decided our Christmas decorating as a family!” texted my 16-year-old in ALL CAPS.

“Where is the plug for that Santa? And what is even on the hedge? It’s so weird!!!!!”

I could hear her frustration through the phone. My husband and I were out at a concert and my daughter had come home from babysitting to find the outside of our house awash in holiday festive lights. This year’s light display had not been “16-year-old-approved.”

I showed my husband the texts. He just chuckled. I texted my daughter back. “Why are you texting ME? I agree with you. I don’t like it either. Daddy wouldn’t listen to me.”

“He’s not answering,” says my daughter. “WHERE IS THE PLUG?!?!?!?”

Much to our surprise, our normally quite calm and fairly mature (we thought) 16-year-old had turned into a hormonal ball of fury over how we decorated the outside of our house this year.

Full disclosure: We are a bit over the top. Truth be told, the first year my husband surprised us with his outdoor light display I had a similar reaction to our 16-year-old. She was only four at the time and was delightfully a part of it that year and every year after until now. Fast forward 12 years, and she wants nothing to do with it.

Which got me to thinking: How do you keep the holidays harmonious in your house when everyone doesn’t agree with how you decorate, or with another tradition you may have?

How do you keep the holidays harmonious in your house when everyone doesn’t agree with how you decorate?Click To Tweet

My 16-year-old was right – we did normally decide the outdoor display as a family. Every year for 12 years now we have posted a different, giant message on our hedge that is displayed throughout the month of December. It often plays on our last name: ELFord – and keeps the neighbours guessing.

This year, she didn’t like any of the ideas, so my husband just went with his preference. Like a busy executive who doesn’t have time to gather everyone’s opinions or build consensus, he pulled rank and posted the word SELFIE on our hedge in bright red lights.

“SELFIE????” our daughter cried. “What does that even mean? What does that have to do with Christmas? At least take the “S” off.”

So we did, now it says ELFIE on our hedge. With the rationale that at Christmas time, instead of taking a SELFIE you take an ELFIE! There was our compromise. The side effect is that no one seems to understand the message unless they saw the first one, with the “S.”

inflatable SantaThe 16-foot inflatable Santa Claus is still there though. He hasn’t gone anywhere, despite the Santa war that goes on between my two daughters every weekend night – the Santa is up, and then unplugged, my 12-year-old goes out to blow him up again, and the 16-year-old unplugs him. Anyone watching must wonder what the heck is going on in our home.


Then came the Christmas cards. “We’re going to take our family Christmas photo today,” I announce on a Sunday morning.

“Whaaaaat?????” cries the 16-year-old. “I didn’t want to do my hair today – or my makeup. And who’s going to take our photo anyway?”

“I don’t know – we could take a sELFie in front of Santa!” I said with a smile.

And that was it. She lost it. No photos. No Santa. No pictures. No lights. Talk about a Grinch!

So, given how upset she was, I backed off. If we didn’t have a family photo this year, so what? But lo and behold, daughter #1 shows up dressed and ready to go. We invited her to be the creative director on the project and we managed to get at least a recent photo of all of us that was even daughter-approved for our Christmas card.

My lesson this year? Don’t assume just because everyone in the family was in the holiday spirit last year means they’ll be into it this year. Especially as girls start getting boyfriends and turn into neighbourhood teasing fodder.

Don’t assume just because everyone in the family was in the holiday spirit last year means they’ll be into it this yearClick To Tweet

Here are my top five tips on keeping the holiday decorating harmonious in your house:

  1. Make the decorating a family event.
  2. Include everyone in the decision.
  3. If you can’t agree to disagree, allow different family members to lead different parts of the decorating.
  4. Honour all opinions – no bad ideas.
  5. And if things still blow up and go sideways – end the dispute with a hug.

These are the memories we will look back on years from now as we will no doubt remember SANTAGATE for years to come.

Do you have any traditions that your family doesn’t agree on? What do you have to keep doing every year and which traditions would you like to get rid of? Please post a comment below or send me a note. I’ve enjoyed hearing about your traditions and would love to hear more.

How do you keep the holidays harmonious in your house?Click To Tweet

And above all, have a harmonious, happy holiday. With or without “inflating” the importance of holiday traditions.

Susan Elford

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Personal Balance Equation Workbook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a PR Strategist & Leadership Coach who especially loves to work with people who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a balanced life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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New from @susanelford: 'SantaGate: When decorating for the holidays blows up in your house'Click To Tweet

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