‘Tis the Season to be Shopping

I have a long history of being late with Christmas shopping. Well, being late with everything, according to my husband, but late Christmas shopping is where I particularly shine. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more exciting it gets. I can find awesome gifts at the grocery store on December 24?and have a blast doing so. (I’ve even been known to buy and wrap presents after Christmas, but please, don’t spread that around.

Usually, I had excuses for the lateness. Real ones, of course. I was studying for finals . . . or studying for finals . . . or studying for finals. Or lying in bed with horrible morning sickness. Or?and the list goes on. Regardless of the reason, each year you’ll find me scurrying around the mall on December 23 (and sometimes, 24).

This year, things were different. I decided to be smart, focused, and, for once, on time. I started Christmas shopping in the fall. That is, I found a great bargain on a play kitchen for my daughter in September. Everything else I bought in November. Come December 1, my closet was full of wrapped, tagged presents. My Christmas shopping was done.

How wonderful! Now I finally had time to focus on decorating and baking. I could shed all that materialistic, stressful shopping nonsense and concentrate on the real spirit of Christmas. Now, I could have one of those relaxed, deep-breathing, homemade-cookies-Martha-Stewart Christmases, instead of a frantically-wrapping-presents-at-2-a.m.-after-midnight-Mass Christmas. I was so proud of myself.

I should have been happy.

I wasn’t.

It was like something was missing. At first, I tried to ignore the signs. I pretended that I wasn’t still Christmas shopping for my daughter; the fact that I was officially done buying for her about 10 presents ago just meant that I was a savvy shopper?or a sucker for a sale on cute baby items. The fact that I kept writing and rewriting my gift list showed that I was kind and didn’t want to forget someone, not that I secretly hoped I had forgotten someone so I could start thinking up ideas. My husband wasn’t much help; according to him, if I felt so badly I could always go out and buy more gifts for him!

It wasn’t until I found myself looking at items and seriously considering buying them for next Christmas?That’s Christmas 2008?that I began to understand the nature of the problem.

I suddenly realized that last-minute shopping had become a Christmas tradition for me, as familiar and necessary to that Christmas feeling as lighting the Advent wreath, hearing carols on the radio, decorating the tree, or eating tourtière on Christmas Eve. I liked Christmas shopping, especially at the last minute. Without it, December didn’t seem, well, Christmassy.

So here we are the weekend before Christmas. I’m at home, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, listening to carols, looking at the decorated tree, thinking about the freezer stuffed with homemade cookies and Christmas breads. And checking and double-checking that Christmas list. And then checking it again.

I give up. To all of you packing the malls on December 23, I’ll see you there. If nothing else, I can get started on next year’s Christmas shopping.