Pa Rum Pum Pum Pum

I love Christmas. Ornaments for the tree? I have enough to fill my tree, my neighbor’s tree, your tree, and the National Tree in DC. Who cares if my tree is only 4 feet tall? Do I buy more every year? You bet. Christmas cards? Yup. I have enough to send out to people I don’t even know for the rest of my life. Do I buy more every year? You bet. Lights, snow globes, bells, wreaths, glitter … I’ve got it all. In spades. What’s even more fun is coming up with a gift list. Oh, not for myself, but everyone else. I truly enjoy gift-giving.

Well, ever since Halloween, I’ve been humming “The Little Drummer Boy” to myself and it made me wonder – is it ever too early to be thinking about Christmas? Some of you are rolling your eyes and harrumphing: “Of course, there is a too early for this crap Christmas time-frame!” I couldn’t agree with you more. We all know this. But humming to oneself like a nutcase and throwing up a tree and full-blown decorations are two entirely different things.

I’ve seen and heard so many people get straight up grumpy about Christmas making an early appearance – I’m one of those people, actually, as I gripe about Santa and decorations showing up in stores before Thanksgiving has even reared its fine-feathered head, and yet every year it keeps happening. Earlier and earlier we see the commercial side of this supposedly altruistic holiday.

Back in the day, it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa who set the timing for the season. Then the stores got the idea to bolster their profits by having Black Friday which, in reality, starts way before Thanksgiving when you think about all of the advertising, early-bird deals, etc. Now, the stores are like: “Is it almost Halloween!? Dust off last year’s Christmas paraphernalia and throw that out there with the turkey napkin holders, pumpkins, ghosts, and skeletons … let’s get this Hallowthanksmas conglomeration started!”

Consider all the money that goes into Christmas. According to the American Research Group, the average American plans to spend roughly $929 on gifts this year. That doesn’t include holiday travel, decorations, or food, which I’m sure is some astronomical number of dollars. Given the huge investment that the Christmas season is for many people – not to mention, the profit margin for the businesses who have honed their capitalistic holiday campaign, it’s no surprise that they want to get their money’s worth. After all, if I was spending almost $1000, I’d want to have warm seasonal fuzzies for far longer than a month. “Hey, I bought that singing, blow-up snowman for my yard and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to annoy my neighbors with it for as long as possible!” Okay, fine, so annoying the neighbors is an “all year” treat that I do take advantage of, but that’s just me.

Decorating a house, depending on your commitment level, can take some serious time, with the tree alone taking a few hours. Lugging boxes from the garage and carefully putting hooks on every individual ornament isn’t something to take lightly. Getting that just-right Griswold effect on the house is also a feat that is nothing if not time-consuming. I mean, I can totally understand that if people go to all of that effort, they want it to start as early as possible and last until they’re good and ready to take it all down. Even if that means those decorations stay up until Spring.  A friend of mine used to leave her Christmas tree up long enough that it became a Mardi Gras tree around mid-March, just for the sheer fact that it was too pretty and too much work to take it down.

As much as I love Christmas, and I do love Christmas, my tree is up barely in time for the day itself and comes down the day after. Love the holiday, hate the clutter. I always dream of a decorated home worthy of a Home and Gardens cover, or at least, a photo spread on the inside pages … but alas, my anxiety won’t let me. Or rather, it does, but if you blink, you’ll miss it.

Now Christmas songs seem to be a different animal entirely. Songs don’t take much effort (for the listener, that is), but like any song, there can be too much of a good thing after a while. So, should we be listening to Christmas songs as early as we are decorating? Radio stations certainly think so. Literally the day after Halloween there are round the clock Christmas music broadcasts. Maybe that’s why I’ve had vintage pa rum pum pum pums rattling around in my head. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. Bonus, my not quite under my breath singing annoys my coworkers, so there’s that. In all fairness though, by the time Christmas is over I’m so sick of hearing “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” that I want to die. I think the secret to success with Christmas music is creating your own playlists. And earplugs when traipsing through the department stores with piped-in music. No-one wants those songs in their head all day.

When it comes right down to it, the Christmas season is whatever you want it to be. Do I hate retailers who put out their inventory before that Thanksgiving turkey even hatches? You better believe it. Am I going to be rifling through that very same inventory as excitedly as a child at um… Christmas? You better believe it.

The Twelve Truths of Christmas

Christmas is nigh. Isn’t that what they say in all the traditional poems? I admit it; I enjoy this time of the year.  Spending an hour untangling all the lights for the porch, only to find that strand you meticulously hung over the tree at the side of the house has a burnt-out bulb and is rebelliously unlit. People grimacing festively in an attempt to appear happy in the lines of Walmart as they are regaled with Holly Jolly Christmas for the thousandth time. Just while standing line. Arguing over “dibs” on the last box of generic, non-gender specific, all holiday inclusive non-religious box of cards left on the shelf. Okay. I will admit that I absolutely love holiday cards. I specifically look for ones that focus more on nature or animals or snow-covered lanes…but I adore them all and have quite the collection. I have so many that if I never bought another card, I would be well into my 80’s before I ran out. My daughter Sarah has forbidden me to buy any more for this year, but I have news for her – I’ll just hit the sales after Christmas to restock my stash for next year! That’s what she gets for not being more specific on her stationery ban.

I have, over the years, found some things that never change.  I know you are reading this on your phone, hiding from guests in the bathroom at your party.  So, pull up a bottle, or box (I don’t judge), of wine and enjoy these Twelve Truths of Christmas.

  1. Santa Claus is a better weapon than any other ever devised.  If they had an adult version of Santa Claus, there would be no crime.  Threatening an adult with “if you don’t return that library book, Santa will bring you coal” would be very effective, if only the price of coal wasn’t enough to make that threat a welcome alternative to vacuum cleaners and cookware.  Poor Santa is already the most used threat in the world of children, with threats beginning December 26 and lasting through December 24 of the next year.  I personally prefer Krampus-themed threats – but that’s just me, and admittedly I’m not the best parenting role model.
  1. Facebook will post over 12 million pictures of dogs wrapped in garland sitting under the tree, trees knocked over with expensive ornaments shattered on the ground and shame-faced pets standing nearby, and cat butts sticking out of the top of the tree branches. Each picture will be accompanied by a thoroughly appropriate “Aww, how cute.” The posters of such cliché comments, however, are actually thinking to themselves “my precious Fido and Buttons would never dream of doing such a thing…they are just so well behaved.” Then, of course, precious Fido and Buttons become just another Facebook statistic by knocking over the tree and everyone posts the required “Aww, how cute.”  The circle of Facebook life is now complete.
  1. If you want to believe in the power of last minute redemption, look no further than kids in December. For eleven months out of the year, Billy and Sally Mae are hellions.  Rude, obnoxious, spoiled hellions.  The magic of the season strikes on December 1st, and suddenly these two future ax murderers are the picture of perfectly behaved children.   They must be on to something, because every year Santa brings them cool stuff no matter how naughty they were the first part of the year.  This reminds me of felons who find sudden clarity and remorse in court when faced with jail.  Not to say that Billy and Sally Mae are future felons or anything. But, you know, just saying.
  1. At least a third of the presents you buy will be for people you don’t really know. Of that third, half will be for people you don’t even like.  In the true spirit of the holiday, you will be buying gifts for your mailman, the teacher who grades on a curve, your kid’s bus driver, the guy who serves you coffee at McDonald’s, and your sister’s hairdresser’s brother.  You will take one heroic step more in the spirit of the season and get “something small” for the janitor at your son’s school, even though you don’t know his name and he sort of creeps you out.  Yay, Christmas!
  1. Whoever wrote those impassioned songs about the joys of holiday shopping has never had a fistfight with an 82-year-old grandmother in Toys-R-Us over a Hatchimal. Don’t worry that you don’t even know what the hell a Hatchimal is. No one does. Shopping brings out the worst in all of us.  The tension, the pressure, and the expense stretches our nerves to the breaking point.  We play right into the greedy hands of manufacturers who, every year like clockwork, deliberately under-manufacture the hottest items on the toy list so retailers can hike the prices to unreal levels while at the same time creating a shortage vs demand situation.  Shamed parents will pay those prices so that Billy and Sally Mae don’t miss out on the toy of the year. The same toy that will sit in the dark of the closet after about an hour of play – if you’re lucky.   Normally pleasant people find themselves being unpleasant; I can assure you, 82-year-old grandmothers can still have a wicked left hook.
  1. There is a reason there is so much talk of holiday spirits. Tis the season for eggnog.  And spiked cider. And wine.  And even just plain beer.  This is the true “holiday spirit.”  The stress can cause even the most well balanced individual to crawl inside a bottle of rum and stay there until the New Year.
  1. The sales, commercials, and songs begin earlier and earlier each year. Don’t even get me started on store decorations. They won’t stop until the first official shopping day of Christmas is Labor Day. Hey, Christmas!  Thanksgiving called, and it wants its week back.
  1. The reason you waited until the last minute to buy Aunt Gertrude’s present is because you have no idea what to get her. Unfortunately for Aunt Gertrude, you still have no idea; and your imagination is all used up after buying for fifty-hundred other relatives and she is getting a pizza scented candle from Walmart because that was the only scent they had left on the shelf.  Wait; do they actually have pizza scented candles?  What a great idea! It’s mine, people…no stealing.
  1. The Elf on the Shelf is Santa’s spy. Spying is treason. Treason is punishable by death. Don’t blame your kids for trying to drown the Elf on the Shelf.  They are merely doing what is required by law.
  1. It’s hard to feel jolly when your credit cards and bank accounts are giggling behind your back. On an unrelated note, you can sell blood plasma for about $50 a pint.  True story, Google it.
  1. No matter how hard you try to pull off the perfect holiday get together, your dog will poop out tinsel in the hallway, your cat will get stuck in the tree, you will put your 8 pound ham in the oven at 9 AM and forget to turn the oven on, your child will pee on the neon green, orange and puce comforter that you bring out once a year because Auntie Evelyn knitted it by hand and will be coming over tonight, and you will use cooking alcohol in a “one for the recipe, one for me” kind of way not recommended by the cook book. It happens. To everyone. Get over it early and you just might survive.
  1. Christmas is a flawed holiday, perfect in all its imperfections. Slow down and enjoy every moment of this totally impossible, thoroughly enjoyable holiday because it passes all too fast.

Christmas Nerds

So this Christmas is going to be a somewhat lean one for my kids and me – and that’s okay. It’s not something we can’t work through. As we were talking about gift giving for the upcoming holiday, we decided that we’d choose presents we could sort of give to ‘each other’ to share – communal presents as it were, within a certain cost range.

Rather than purchase several gifts for each of us individually, we would choose a special gift that my son and I would give each other to share that would benefit the “whole” and, likewise, a gift that my daughter and I would give each other that would benefit the “whole.” You get the idea.

Anyway.

The choice of presents was theirs and theirs alone…I left that up to them and figured I would be content with whatever they decided. I just wanted them to be happy. They could’ve chosen anything. Here’s what they came up with. Needless to say, they did my geeky little heart proud. Our mutual love for Marvel Comics and Doctor Who runs deep. I love, love, love my Christmas nerds!

Sarah's Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Sarah’s Choice (to add to our Marvel collection)

Jake's Choice (we're all Whovians in this house)

Jake’s Choice (we’re all Whovians in this house)