It’s Coming…

Sitting in my sun-filled lounge yesterday pondering on lofty doctrines and brownie recipes I was jolted by a very sincere thought,

“I need to get my Christmas shopping done. Today.”

And I know it’s the Cashier at Costco’s fault. I was there innocently buying chips and cookies for the masses at Mutual and she says, her eyes traveling up and down my person,

“You know honey, most people that shop here are finished with their Christmas shopping.”

“OCDies”

I responded.

She shot back with sharp eyes as if warning me–as if telling me–I’d be sorry. Handing me the receipt she muttered,

“Have a nice day.”

I had also just purchased a case load of Perrier in plastic bottles, and knew that a “nice day” was in my future. She didn’t have to order me to have one.

But there it was, blooming in my head, the seed planted by a Costco money-taking gardener. With pen and sticky note in hand I listed all the places I needed to go and estimated how quickly I could get it all done in one afternoon.

To be honest, Christmas has been disappointing me as of late. In my golden youth, my parent’s gave me Christmases of magic and truth which means that I usually got whatever I wanted. And my mother’s Yuletide decorating could show-down any Martha Stewart assistant and most likely the ex-con diva herself. Fresh oranges were flown in from Arizona. Also, not to brag, but my Dad was always the Bishop of something and ward members flooded our house with gifts of gold, frankincense and chocolate-covered pretzels dipped in crushed peppermints. Some had cards attached,

“Dear Bishop, thanks for helping Ben get his Eagle. We’ll never forget how you arrived at 7:00am at the trailhead with donuts. Love the Kelsons P.S. Now can you help him get on a mission?”

After my mission, I forsook the Christmas commercialization and opted for a new Book of Mormon and a laminated copy of Skousen’s “A Personal Search for the Meaning of the Atonement” which, if you’ve never read, is every missionary’s deep-doctrine-come-true. Being pious was my special Christmas gift to myself.

But my holidays were really rocked when I got married. It just doesn’t feel right. I’ve dissected it in many ways. Am I just getting older? Isn’t because we don’t have kids? Is there really no such thing as the “spirit of the holidays?” Is it all a spiritless twist of reality? I’ve tried going small. I’ve tried going big. I’ve even tried canceling the whole thing. Do you think I am joking? Don’t do that.

So now I am wondering if the Cashier at Costco was actually the Spirit of Christmas Futuro and arrived in my life to share bits of holiday secrets passed down since Saturnalia (The Original Christmas–I know my Roman holidays). Perhaps if I get the commercial stuff crossed off my sticky note, BEHOLD! the “holiday spirit” appears and therein is love.

By-the-way, I didn’t get my Christmas shopping done yesterday. I opted for some cream of broccoli soup at that old stand-by “Brick Oven” close to BYU campus. In the past, we’ve gone there on Christmas Eve as a family. Don’t knock it! Who wants to cook on that night? I’ll bet even Mrs. Claus herself has Chinese. Weirdly enough, I think I saw the Cashier at Costco there at a nearby table. Dressed in red, trying to scoop dripping cheese off her chin, she winked in my direction. I almost gagged.

What is your Happy Holidays secret?

21 thoughts on “It’s Coming…

  1. Growing up, our family tradition was Chinese on Christmas Eve — the place was empty and the staff ready to serve, having nothing special planned for that night or the next day. Some scoffed at our ritual but I, the designated dishwasher of EVERY dish in the house EVERY day of my growing up life, was relieved of dish duty.

    The other is that my circle-of-friends have made a pact NO CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR FRIENDS. A card or small treat is acceptable but with the amount of “friends” we all have the holiday budget got scary REALLY fast. Instead we lavish each other on birthdays so the $ is spread throughout the year (and our hubbies don’t get sticker shock).

    BTW: watch your mail ;o)

  2. Last year was the first year in several years that I actually pulled out decorations and had “Christmas.” I figured that I could stand the judicious reentry of some Christmas traditions. I have not bought one thing yet for Christmas, although I have some ideas. (Wait! Not true! I bought tinsel Christmas trees and decorations in June for next to nothing!) Now, I must take those grand ideas and scale them back to achievable levels.

  3. Last night a friend of mine said that by Thanksgiving, not only will she be finished shopping–the presents will all be WRAPPED! Whoa. I can only dream of such efficiency. I don’t even have a sticky note list yet!

    That said, I love simple traditions that do not involve gifts. Music, looking at lights, decorating our home, caroling, hot cocoa. My biggest challenge is keeping the stress of procrastination (Hi. My name is Jennifer and I’m a procratinaholic) and choosing appropriate gifts to a minimum. Something about the ritual, habit, and familiarity of traditions is very comforting–I’d like to create new meaningful ones worth carrying on. (Plus, online shopping, avoiding crowds when I’m stressed, and watching out for mysterious Costco cashiers/stalkers is a must!)

    Hope you enjoy the season this year!

  4. Christmas tree up right after Thanksgiving (maybe even on Thanksgiving DAY) I’m a gift giver- so the idea of spending loads on surprises for those i really love (and even sometimes on those that i only LIKE) excites me and gets me feeling all warm and fuzzy!
    In addition, we’ve started a tradition of one cmas music CD every year. We’re coming up on our 3rd cmas since married, and it’s awesome to play the cd from the first cmas! Takes us back to our college days- in that old apartment, playing amphed on the xbox and eating veggie soup in bed! Snow helps too- and shopping for the “buffet items” cmas tradition has always been a buffet of ALL our favorite goodies on cmas eve- then looking at cmas lights, jammies, BED!
    Brick Oven is my fave… absolute FAVE!!!

  5. The slippery Christmas spirit. As long as the cash flow breaks through the sandbags of reason and the retailers are happy…Christmas is bound to be good. No?

    My wife usually starts thinking about Christmas presents in July. She is so good at coming up with inexpensive gifts…I too procrastinate the day of shopping. It takes a lot to get me in the mood. Marriage threw a new perspective into Christmas. Having kids threw a new perspective. I am glad that my kids can be content with a small haul.

    Sometimes I wonder if the stresses of school/college life have anything to do with the damper of my spirits. There have so many years in my 11 years of marriage that have always had the shadow of “next semester” looming over it.

    I think the best gift would be to be home for Christmas….but I’ll settle for the small haul and happy kids.

  6. Every Thanksgiving evening, we have the “H* Family Kick-Off to Christmas”. This means that the kids get Christmas pajamas and a Christmas DVD (don’t tell them this years is “Polar Express”) which we watch as a family while eating pumpkin pie and drinking hot cocoa. Then, for FHE the following Monday, we pull out the Christmas decorations and start the never-ending playing of holiday music. From then until The Day Itself is my absolute favorite time of year.

    Shopping helps, too. Happy Holidays!

  7. It’s really hard to not focus on the commercialism of Christmas since it starts smacking you in the face at Halloween time! I want to take the time to celebrate Thanksgiving first thank you very much! But I believe that you just need to try to enjoy the season and not focus on the “gifts”. Every year I have the same conversation with my neighbor, “I just don’t know how I’m going to afford presents this year.” I try not to worry about that (not that I don’t stress a little but it’s not my main focus.) I try to think simply when it comes to gifts. Some may call me cheap but I don’t care. I’m not going into debt just so sister-in-law can get something she has two of already! To be honest, most of the time I truly don’t have the money for gifts so I end of making them. Like last year for all my nieces and nephews on Lee’s side, I made a book about Lee’s grandpa that had passed away that year. I did it on my computer and made copies and spiral bound it. Each family got one and I gave each child a candy treat along with it. It cost hardly anything but it meant a lot. Think SIMPLE.

    I love Susan’s idea about a Christmas kickoff. I may adopt that tradition!

    Take advantage of all the activities (There’s a really cool ward party coming up!) and festivities of the season. Have fun! Make the treats, enjoy family and friends, and think simple as far as gifts go. That’s my plan anyway! :)

  8. Our family was never really big on presents, and I feel that way, as well. We keep the gift-giving to a minimum, and continue with our tradition of not putting up decorations until December, reading of the Christmas story and singing Christmas songs on Christmas Eve, and my own personal tradition is to listen to The Messiah as much as possible.

    I am pro-being prepared. It takes me months to figure out what I’m going to get people. I think people should be able to go Christmas shopping at any time without persecution. Post-Christmas sales are not too early for next year. Unfortunately, I do most of my Christmas shopping Dec 20 – Dec 24 and do my wrapping Christmas morning sometimes.

  9. i love love love the ideaR of a cmas kickoff— love love! I think the reason i can enjoy the season is because i start shoppin/thinkin of presents well b4 november!

  10. ((((I love the family kick-off to Christmas idea too…*officially adopted*!))))

    Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me without a little melancholy mixed in for good measure! (but “angst” is my middle name). At about 14 my Mom found me staring solemnly at the Christmas tree and she whispered in my ear that the “magic” wouldn’t return to Christmas until I had children, and she was right (although I borrowed magic off my nieces and nephews for many years!)

  11. Well, women of my generation (I am old) were not very smart. We started our children off young expecting frosted cookies, homemade clam chowder on Christmas Eve, and a plethora of pleasing patries and other holiday delights to feast on throughout the Christmas day. Did we intend to spend the three days leading up to Christmas in the kitchen and then stay up all night wrapping gifts? I give you a resounding, “NO!”

    I have dropped Christmas cards from my routine. The soup will come in cartons from McGraths. We still have pulla and braided bread and a lovely-but easy-breakfast casserole. And the traditional Chex Party Mix to balance out the overload of sugar. If I am smart I will do most of that ahead.

    Neighbor gifts will happen sometime around Valentine’s day. I still end up wrapping presents through the night. And yes, I am still crazy. But mostly crazy good.

    The best Christmas I ever had was when my husband took me away to Manti a few days before to celebrate my anniversary (the 12th) and my birthday (the 22nd). I had to do everything ahead. When I got home two days before so I just slowed down and enjoyed the holiday.

    I wish I could be so wise every year.

  12. I am pulled -yanked, really- between my desire to have all of my gifts wrapped and mailed before Thanksgiving, and my LOVE of going to the stores earlyearlyearly on the morning after Thanksgiving, as well as shopping each night of December. We spend that day after Thanksgiving decorating for Christmas.

    Also, I’m sandwiched (across the street and behind us) between the two most Griswold-y families in all of Provo: They already have a plethora (yen) of lights on their houses, and they’re out there adding more and more each day. This year (week), that got me thinking about how I actually like Thanksgiving, and I wish more people celebrated it instead of just treating it like a filler between Halloween and Christmas.

    What we do:
    ~as I said before, let Thanksgiving be Thanksgiving and decorate for Christmas AFTER.
    ~new Christmas jammies given to wear the entire month of December (and, inevitably, during the summer sometimes)
    ~a new ornament for each kid, each year
    ~On Christmas Eve, take a plethora (yen) of items to The Road Home, a homeless shelter in Salt Lake
    ~Each kid gets three gifts (two from parents, one from Santa, plus stocking) because that’s how many Jesus got. I totally bogarted this from la yen.

  13. I have to agree with Leisha, the magic just doesn’t come back until you have kids. I know that is NOT what you wanted to hear :( . My husband and I were married 5 years before we had our daughter and the first three of them I made him sleep over at my parents, just to try and recapture the magic.

    All I know is that the more effort I try and put into Christmas, the more mellancholy I feel. Just do the things that make YOU and Chup feel good and embrace family and love and others… and make sure your parents still get you whatever you want.

  14. I don’t know what you guys are TALKING about… like i said, this is our third cmas together- still no kids- and i’m kind of looking forward to it! I say (as hard as i KNOW that it is sometimes) ENJOY THE SEASON YOU”RE IN- one day you’ll look back and wonder where it went!!!
    Completely spoil each other with more than you could ever think was practical and spend these years getting to know/love/spend time alone with each other like you might not otherwise.
    We’re looking forward to spending cmas/cmas eve alone together… maybe visit extended family for dinner or something, but we’re going to relish in sleeping in and focusing on ourselves… maybe (hopefully) we won’t be able to be as selfish forever!!! (oh, and find a few kids who need a cmas, and buy a gifty or two for them)

  15. I had six married-without-children Christmases. Some were disappointing, since my husband and I have quite different ideas of Christmas and the negotiations could get harsh and the results pleased no one. Some were bad because other people treated us like we didn’t count–we were too often guests at someone else’s Christmas. Having kids old enough for us to refuse holiday travel was a boost to Christmas–but having kids also was the occasion to turn the holidays into a fury signifying nothing.

    The best answer I ever found was Unplug the Christmas Machine. It helped me figure out how to celebrate Christ’s birth joyfully and meet my family’s actual hopes and not my exaggerated misunderstandings.

    Funny, I thought about Christmas gifts for the first time this week too. Finishing shopping before Veteran’s Day is a bit strange, up there with once-a-month cooking and stamping everyone’s birthday cards on January 2nd. Though my very nice friend Janet D. can do all that and never boast.

    To those over-organized ladies who do boast, I say James 4:13-16.

  16. p.s. I shop at Costco–when I remember–and I don’t have any of my Christmas shopping done yet. I’m still looking forward to Thanksgiving.

    j5t: Let’s have a field trip this season to see if my Griswold-y neighbors can hold a C-7 bulb to your Griswold-y neighbors. I save a grundle on my electricity bill because their lights are so bright there’s no need for me to decorate–I can just look out the window across the street!

    We do the ornament thing too. I’ve heard about the jammies tradition, but with four boys/men in the house I haven’t bothered. Do you know how hard it is to get the male species to wear pajamas?

    The biggest challenge–but also the best part–is to get your kids to think about giving more than about getting. Some years are better than others. But the best Christmases are when we actually succeed.

  17. I can testify to j5t’s neighbors. Quite hillarious actually!
    Johnna, I am buying that book–thanks for the link. And I will remember: “Such rejoicing is evil.”
    There have been so many suggestions here that are so useful. Thank you for taking time to help a friend in needed. I will keep you all posted (pardon the pun).
    And just so I am honest, we went to Target last night and I am almost done. Something is driving me to get it all out of the way. Maybe it’s like Dalene, and my husband is secretly taking me to Hawaii. In that case, Mele Kalikimaka.

  18. I love Christmas, but not for all the stuff. I’m trying to get rid of stuff. A friend of mine takes her entire family to South America each Christmas to build homes for poor villagers. That would be my best Christmas ever if I could just have enough money to get there with all 7 of us.

    I love decorating and putting up the tree, but I hate the shopping and all the new stuff we get that I now have to take care of, dust, insure, clean, and store.

  19. I like the idea of taking stuff to a shelter on Christmas Eve. That might be a good option for us, since South America is unfortunately out of the picture.

    Our favorite family tradition is eating our Christmas Eve dinner by candlelight. We have a big candle in the center of the table that represents Jesus, and each person has a small votive of their own. We each light our candle from the big one and read a “light” scripture. It’s simple and the kids love it.

  20. I am really struggling with Christmas this year. And last year too, actually, and the year before. It seemed to escalate into a big whirlwind that left me feeling sad and exhausted. The kids seemed overly anxious and hyper. It’s not what I want for my family!

    I love the ideas here, thank you for sharing. I love the candlelight and votives, the three gifts, the plea for sanity from Dalene. Each year I vow to try better. Maybe this year will be the one.

    Thanks for the ideas and the encouragment. I really appreciate it.

  21. My secret is dumping the guilt.

    Our Christmas routine built up over the years into a frantic attempt to shove the True Meaning of Christmas down everyone’s throats. We did service projects, Secret Santa trades with the siblings (you know, they draw a name and do nice things for that person for a week), scriptural advent calendars, multiple Family Home Evening lessons, carols, reading scriptures and singing every night, making dozens of hand-decorated cookies for teachers and neighbors… AAAAAGH! I felt guilty that my kids WANTED presents (gasp!). I somehow thought that this was my big occasion to make a spiritual mark on the family. I don’t believe that anymore.

    So now I’m determined to relax. I still send out dozens and dozens of cards because it’s important to me. I love buying gifts for my kids and I refuse to feel badly for indulging their lust for worldly treasures once a year. We focus on a few spiritually-centered activities and other traditions that are special for us, and every time I get the guilt-filled urge to do more religious/spiritual things or fewer non-religious things, I remind myself that our family’s devotion to Christ is not dependent on what we do during the month of December.

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