Perhaps it feels too early for a Christmas article, but by the time this article is published there will be only 38 days until Christmas. And all the signs are here. Hallowe’en is barely over and the malls are drenched in Christmas decor. I heard Christmas carols in the grocery store yesterday, and the magazines and newspapers are full of early sale dates and great gift ideas. We can complain about Santa’s capitalist conspiracy later, but right now, if you choose to participate, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Last year was a particularly busy yuletide season for me, and I just about pulled a bah-hum-bug and decided to forget the whole thing. I’d written exams in the middle of December, and didn’t start shopping until after they were done. I thought that I could just whip through the mall, find a few thoughtful purchases and be on my merry way. But, as I’m sure you know, malls are mean and nasty places in December. ‘Tis the season for stealing parking spots and being a big hurry. I couldn’t find any of the fabulous ideas I’d planed to get everyone and spent two days trying to get Jingle Bells out of my head. I showed up at my parents’ house in time and bearing gifts, but barely.
So, not this year. I won’t do it. I won’t stress over gifts no one really needs. I won’t show up tired and sick of the whole season. And I won’t drag the whole holiday down with cynicism or negativity. I’ll need to make some changes. First of all, I won’t write exams so close to Christmas — the option to decide this clearly being one of the perks to distance education. And I’ve already started shopping. Each time I see something I know a loved one would like, I snatch it up and stuff it under my bed. I only hope I don’t forget and find the hidden gifts come March.
I used to hate this person, the one who’s done their shopping by August and happily sipping Christmas cheer while the rest of us fight our way through the blizzard of shoppers. They say obnoxious things like “Christmas comes at the same time each year. It really shouldn’t sneak up on you.” They tell you to enjoy visiting with friends and family instead of racing around from store to store. They remind you to give to people who really need it. They encourage you to keep it simple. In general, they annoy you with their jolly over-organization.
But that was before I realized what a chore the whole thing was, and how this contradicts the entire meaning of holiday season. At some point, I realized all the clichés are true. It’s the gifts that can’t be wrapped that really matter. It’s the time spent as friends and family, or donating to a charity that will be truly memorable. It’s recognizing that Christmas really can be a time to be merry. It’s a choice. So, in the meantime, I’ve got a stash of gifts waiting to be wrapped, Christmas cards to send and 38 days to get it all done.