Christmas again. Can you believe it? It seems like just last year we had Christmas. I really enjoy this time of year: decking the halls, hustling and bustling, Rudolph and Herbie taking on the Abominable Snowman and, of course, all the yummy treats. In fact, it’s the only time of year you feel good about packing on 15 pounds. People love this holiday so much that it seems to come earlier every year. In July, folks are grilling chicken while listening to Christmas music on the radio.
In the olden days people would celebrate the end of winter with a traditional solstice festival. They’d throw a fat log on the fire, kill a cow for a feast, and then get their drink on. Later, church leaders replaced this pagan practice with a holiday to commemorate the birth of Jesus, calling it Christmas.
The gift-giving tradition began when Jesus, the Son of God was lying in a manger in a Bethlehem stable. Some people just came to adore him, but others figured: Hey, if this is the Son of God, maybe he can give us some stuff. Then they set up a gift registry, tapped their fingers, and waited. At some point, the story goes, Jesus got tired of people asking him for things, so he appointed a jolly go-to guy by the name of Santa Claus.
This worked well for a while, but unfortunately the new guy has started to slip. The older I get, the fewer presents he brings me. Something’s not right. When I was little and naughty, I got a lot of gifts. Now that I’m older and nicer, I don’t get squat. Did Santa, who’s supposed to check his list twice to avoid overlooking anyone, stop checking it altogether when I hit my thirties? Has the old fella had his eyes checked lately?
I should probably just count my blessings, because when you’re older, most of the Christmas gifts you get only add to the clutter, anyway. The excitement of receiving a present has been replaced by the dread of selling it off a few months later at your spring garage sale. When someone gives you a gift, the infamous words: “You didn’t have to do that,” mean exactly that.
Perhaps the hardest thing about Christmas is figuring out what to get someone else, or if you even need to bother getting them a gift at all. It feels terrible when a person gives you a present and you’re left with no choice but to pull out your Starbucks card with $4.20 left on it and say, “Oh, I got you a little something too.” Sometimes people try to fool you by re-gifting an item they received some time in their life and didn’t really care for. “Oh, thank you, a coffee mug with your name on it.”
Some cheapskates wrap the gift that a company gave them free because they bought something else. So basically, they got a nice cashmere sweater, while you get the refrigerator magnet with the company’s toll free number on it. A lot of times people hand me a gift and say, “It’s really nothing,” and boy are they right.
Shopping for loved ones should be fun, but it’s not. Instead of dashing through the show, you’re stressed out. Not only do you worry whether the person will like your gift, but if they will like you after you give them your gift. Many times you have no clue what to get someone until you see that item, which means you have to go out into Mall World. As Andy Williams’ song about the “most wonderful time of the year” plays through department store speakers, shoppers see the with resentment, scratching and clawing their way through checkout lines. It’s scarier than Halloween.
Christmas is not about getting cool presents, though. It’s about the feeling the season brings. It’s that time of the year where the world seems to give you a respite. Bills get put on hold; vacation days gently unfold; and folks generally tend to be in the holiday spirit—unless they’re trying to find parking.
I believe we decorate our trees and houses with bright bulbs so that—through the headaches, stressors, financial burdens, relationship strife, and children’s screw-ups—there’s still a little light at the end of the year.
It’s also about getting together with loved ones, usually the ones you haven’t seen all year. It’s that one day that they don’t annoy you…as much. Like that creepy uncle who stops by to drop off that weird gift that has no place in your home; something like a mounted deer head or a baseball cap with a trucker logo. He also has the gift of gab as he follows you around the house talking about his new lucrative invention prospect. “It’s a wrench with a bottle opener,” he beams. You’re never sure if he’s lonely or just waiting for the right moment to pocket something from your kid’s stocking. He’s usually the last one to leave, throwing out sentences like, “You put any booze in this eggnog?” or “Do you need that toaster cause ours just broke?”
Sometimes he bellows a burp to let you know he’s still there. Before you reach your breaking point you look at the bright, blinking decorated tree and realize what Christmas is all about