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.

Winter is Coming

Friends, danger is upon us. We are approaching that time of year when brother will turn against brother, sister will deceive sister, and strangers will come to fisticuffs over dwindling supplies of cherished treasure. There’s only one thing that can bring the madness in our society to such a fever pitch. Yes, my friends, I’m talking about holiday shopping.

Get those elbows ready for pushing people out of the way (I hear a sale on elbow pads starts today!) and start brushing up on your bob-and-weave coordination, it all kicks off today, Black Friday, and soon it will be followed by an all-out Christmas merchandise assault. I don’t know what it is about good deals, but it truly unleashes the beast in some people. Maybe it’s mob mentality that comes from being in large, billowing crowds of shoppers. It overtakes rational thought about how to treat your fellow Man and turns them into your worst adversary. Maybe it’s the pressure of finally get the perfect gift for someone you love. Maybe it’s knowing your friends will all be jealous of the fancy new TV/microwave/laptop you have without being any the wiser that you got it at 50% off, or maybe having the ability to pat oneself on the back over such an awesome deal is in fact part of it. Maybe it’s a mix of all these.

All I know is that people who are out and about doing holiday shopping will get downright mean if their mission is slowed down in any way, even by their own kids. On many an occasion I’ve seen seemingly normal parents threaten their children with the promise that Santa will skip over their house Christmas morning if they even think about throwing a hissy-fit in the middle of the store. If I could relive my kids’ childhood, I personally would’ve used the Krampus threat a lot more than I did…that’s the kind of thing that gets kids to sit up and listen.

I’m not sure who I feel for more when I see these parental showdowns in the middle of a jam-packed store…the exasperated parent driven to Santa-related threats, or the kids for throwing the fit in the first place (or at least those kids where you can tell it’s due to stress and being seriously over-tired). Okay, well, that’s actually an easy one…I feel for the strangers having to deal with both of them when all they want is to make it through the crowds to get their paper towels and toilet paper in peace.

Thank goodness I’m not a child (at least not age-wise anyway). I’ve lost my shit MANY times at the mall and would be a permanent name on Santa’s blacklist if the “no visit for you” rules applied to me. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I may be on the no-fly list for Santa’s sleigh, but it’s for entirely different reasons.

In fact, kids have it pretty good, don’t they? They can get away with a fairly good amount before they face any real consequences. But if one of us so-called “adults” yells and screams and stomps our feet in the middle of a store (maybe even knock over a display or two), all of a sudden here comes security to take us to grown-up timeout, which trust me, doesn’t involve cookies and milk afterwards.

I guess that’s what really separates adults from children. We ALL want to bitch and moan, but adults have learned how to keep all of that inside for the sake of appearances, ulcers and migraines notwithstanding.  Most of the time at least. If there’s ever a time when the rage might be too much to control, it’s in these next couple months. So, please, be careful out there. Winter is coming.

 

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 Spirit Showdown

The release of the movie Krampus was a couple of weeks ago. Of course I went to see it because a horror Christmas comedy starring Adam Scott…DUH. It’s like the movie studio had me in mind when they were sitting around drinking copious amounts of eggnog trying to come up with fresh ideas. Great movie. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should definitely go see it.

However, it’s brought to the forefront of my mind the general gift-giving tradition of the holiday season, what it means to parents of temper tantrum throwing children everywhere, and I’m left wondering about the whole Santa vs Krampus thing once again. 

So the movie comes out. It’s all about an ancient demon that arrives around Christmas time to kidnap and eat all the nasty little kids (or in the case of the movie, people in general, not just kids) out there that made the world a worse place. “The shadow of Santa Claus” he’s called in the movie. His origins are Eastern European (because of course) and I couldn’t help but think that these downtrodden Slavic parents maybe sort of had the right idea.

I mean, think about it. It’s easy to wave off being forced into good behavior. A kid, or an adult for that matter, could play off not wanting a particular toy (hey, adults want toys too!) after he’s caught throwing rocks and knowing that his top-of-the-list item won’t be under the tree this year. “Pssssh, I didn’t want it that bad anyway. I’m glad I threw that rock.” Simple.

Or just blow off being good one day knowing they’ll just make some grand gesture a few days later to make up for it…most likely accompanied by that doe-eyed look that no-one can possibly resist. As if Santa has a selective memory and only the most recent stuff sticks. Make sure the last memorable thing was a positive one and that iPad is as good as got. Which when you look at it realistically, works. Kids have that game figured out.

The point being that from a Santa perspective, the consequences aren’t very dire so the kids, and people in general, aren’t that set on being “good,” at least not for the long game.

But with Krampus, well boy howdy, there you have some serious repercussions if you mess up. It’s not just, “You’re not going to get that Lionel train set.” It’s more, “I’m going to stuff you in a burlap sack, drag you to my hellish lair, and then eat you alive.” I don’t know about you but my rock throwing days would noticeably diminish (at least in the winter months) if I thought Krampus might be watching.

A Cheerful Christmas Story (or How Santa is Being Used and Abused)

This entry was originally posted on December 23, 2013 – thought I’d post it again now, being Christmas-y and all. And since I spent a better part of the weekend shopping, it sort of sums up the frustrations I encountered from the endeavor. I know, I know, it’s a lazy way out…what can I say, I’m tired — but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.  Bet you’ll reconsider my whole Krampus idea after you read it.  

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A Cheerful Christmas Story (or How Santa is Being Used and Abused)

Time for a rant. So, my daughter and I were at the Fresh and Greens the other day and we saw this little girl, maybe 5 years old. Well, first we heard her. We didn’t see her till later. And that would be because she was in the walkway at the end of the cash registers on the floor. You really couldn’t see her unless you looked for her….or was trying to say…leave the store (since she was blocking the walkway). You could certainly hear her though.

Being the time of year it is, it was about Christmas. Of course….it had to be, right? She was repeatedly yelling that she wanted presents for Christmas and for Santa to visit her – all in that whiney little voice that only a child’s own mother can tolerate. I was a little late to the party here, but I gathered from the cashier that this precious little light of mirth had demanded candy or whatever and her mother said no. Not only that, the mother had poured a healthy amount of salt in that wound by additionally threatening that Santa wouldn’t visit unless she behaved. Bad move, mommy. That bold-faced lie unleashed the kraken hiding within her doe-eyed daughter turning what may have been a manageable tantrum into full on psychosis displaying itself for all to see on the floor of this grocery store.

We all have our parenting style and I’m not (fully) criticizing what this mother did next. I’m just saying that it’s not something I would do and leave it at that. So the kid is screaming full blast and this mom, rather than step away from her conversation with the cashier, decided instead to proclaim to the child, “NOW, Santa won’t visit or bring you presents unless you get up off the floor.” Right.

Well you would have thought that she’d sent an electric shock to this child. The little girl splayed herself across the floor with flailing limbs that resembled an 80’s break-dancer and her voice reached a pitch of whine that I thought only possible in a machine shop. And, almost impossibly (but I swear it’s true), her repeated demand that Santa must visit her and must bring her presents, got even louder. It was truly a sight to behold.

Unfortunately the first possible collateral damage entered the scene in the form of an elderly woman who had had enough and had decided that no matter how curious she might be to see if this demon girl’s head was going to start spinning she’s got other things to do and tried to make her way out of the store. She had to gingerly make her way past this kid without having a leg taken out from under her and breaking a hip. Wonder what Santa would’ve said about that!?

And the mom of this lovely floor ornament? Well, the mother, to her credit, was not the least bit fazed or concerned, certainly not enough to become a proactive participant in this wild scene. In fact, you’d barely know she had a child at all. Instead of physically removing the child from the aisle so the elderly woman could get by safely (which would have been the LEAST of my kids’ problems had this been them), she simply continued repeating her mantra ….”Santa won’t visit unless you get off the floor” from the relative safety of the checkout line. What kind of idiotic bribery is this? Good grief, the parenting skills that people use today! Oh wait…skills implies talent or useful abilities. Scratch that. Good grief, what passes as parenting these days!

I mean, really? Let’s do a little play-by-play. First the girl misbehaves. Next, mom pulls out the Santa’s Watching card. So of course the girl’s natural reaction is to throw herself down on the floor. Santa’s watching after all, right? Magically though, now Santa visits tantrum throwing kids just so long as they don’t throw their tantrum while flailing about on the floor or take out the elderly woman trying to exit stage left. Talk about a bit of holiday spirit perversion. I think Santa would be appalled if he knew he was being used in this manner

I wish I could be a fly on the wall of that household when the natural dynamic of this mother and child hits the teenage years. Now that should be a party! Bet Santa’s invite to that one gets lost in the mail.

 

naughty list