Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married 55 years, have 7 children, have 23 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

He says:
Craig says: the holiday season is coming upon us and my nerves are already getting frazzled. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Thanksgiving when we get together with our family. Christmas has always been special.  Cutting down the tree with our children is especially epic!

What I don’t appreciate is the frenzied nature of all the planning and preparations. I wish we could dial it down a notch — maybe have fewer gifts, send fewer cards and spend some quiet time reflecting on the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When the holidays get into full swing, I feel pressured and grouchy.  What I should feel is blessed with family, but those four little faces of our kids crying for a toy or demanding to see a particular holiday show sends my blood pressure soaring and drives the smile from my face. My biggest problem is my wife, who becomes Emily the Elf during holiday season. She gets more into the celebration than the kids. What can I do?

She says:
Emily says: I enjoy all the holidays, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are especially meaningful. There is so much to celebrate with the children.  I believe we only have so many years to enjoy their innocence and holiday excitement.

Craig enjoys helping to cook the turkey, bake cookies and trim the tree. Because he works full time to support us, he’s tired when he gets home, whereas the kids and I are full of holiday energy.

I truly appreciate the effort Craig puts into our preparations, but he can pick and choose what activities he wishes to do. I think that Craig just does not want to miss out on anything, while I admit I jump into holiday prep with both feet.


Craig jokes about me being Emily the Elf, but secretly, I think he admires all I do and wishes he had more time and energy to jump in with me.

What do they do?
Craig and Emily appear to have a wonderful life (much like in the classic holiday movie). But it is not unusual for the breadwinner who works outside the home to be more serious, less involved and less energetic when it comes to festivities.

Craig also is interested in  the deeper meaning of the holidays, something often lost in today’s commercialized society.

If Thanksgiving is just a big meal with lots of family and lots to eat, and if getting presents overrules understanding the divine gift of the baby Jesus, then we are failing our children.

Baking cookies, decorating or celebrating without focus on the true meaning of Christmas can be an empty experience. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Maybe Craig and Emily can sit down and talk about what activities they should prioritize to satisfy Emily the Elf’s ideas, while accommodating Craig’s interest in the real significance of the holidays, as well as his more limited availability to prepare for them.

We do not know the ages of their children, but if they are old enough to understand, they should also be included in this discussion.

Inviting a neighbor who lives alone to share their Thanksgiving dinner, or bringing gifts to lonely residents in a nursing home, might be more memorable than simply donating to the parish giving tree.

In fact, helping to distribute food at a homeless shelter, and seeing the faces of those served, will be a deeper experience for a family than simply cooking a meal and dropping it off at their parish.

During Advent (and even before), leave the Bible open in a prominent place, and each day read a portion of the infancy narrative in the first and second chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel.