The wishbone hasn't even dried from the Thanksgiving turkey before I have taken back all my thankfuls and begun to mutter to myself.
Newspapers nag me with that little reminder in the bottom corner of the front page, "Only 24 shopping days till...." As if I could forget.
Maybe I'm allergic to December. It goes by in a blur, in a crumpled TO-DO list at the bottom of my purse-then, poof! Day 25 is reached, and all that is left is a carpet full of pine needles, gift wrap stuffed under sofa cushions, and hard-as-a-rock-fruitcake.
So here is why I hate December:
There are too many traditions demanding our attention. Kids come home from show-and-tell and immediately we must put candles in windows, candy in shoes, corn in cornucopias, wreaths, wrens and all sorts of rooty-toot-toots, just because it is someone's tradition.
We already have too many traditions at our house, up to and including the jello-slurping contest Uncle Tim initiated one year after seeing Animal House.
2. DECK THE HALLS...AND HILLS
As newlyweds we started modestly: one bag of decorations. That single bag morphed into a whole storage room devoted to one month of the year. Our tree has all the requisite bells and whistles. The mantle threatens to collapse under the weight of 102 Santa Clauses.
Donkeys bray, cows low, reindeer prance electronically on the roof, the dying cherry tree is bathed in a healthy rosy spotlight. Everything twinkles and blinks. I dread the January electric bill. More than that bill though-I dread stashing all this stuff away again.
3. TO MALL OR NOT TO MALL...that is the question.
Whether 'tis better to bear the slush and slurry of passing cars and boots, or to take arms loaded with packages against a sea of shoppers, must give pause...but not for long!
Oh dear, the stores might be sold out if I don't shop early. I had better go every day, searching in vain for the perfect gift. Why don't we shop for Christmas by month and surname? Surnames A-D buy presents between January and March, E-H between April and July, and so on.
That way, clerks would be employed year-round, the inventory in stores more balanced, and I would be less unbalanced.
4. CHRISTMAS UNWRAPPED-YOU WISH!
Let's buy a $5 gift and spend another $5 dollars wrapping it to make it look like a $50 gift. A forest is ground up to provide the nation's gigantic Riiiiiiiip.
Revolt! Recycle brown grocery bags and comic pages instead. Elaborate wrapping and ribbons have never kept a determined child from discovering what lies beneath the wrapping anyway.
5. THE OFFICE PRESENT-better known as blackmail with a bow.
Someone suggests the work group/team/ night shift should exchange presents. You will be asked to be a Secret Pal and you draw the name of someone you have never heard of.
Now, find something that unknown person has wanted all his/her life for under $5. If you do not participate, you are a Grinch. Suggest that someone pass the hat for a local charity instead. If you're lucky, you might get them to designate you as the charity.
6. BAKE TILL YOU SHAKE
Unless the refrigerator, freezer and several outside storage facilities are crammed with homemade cookies and candies it just isn't Christmas, is it?
After working in your personal slave labor baking camp your hands are cracked and your eyes are red. Time now to wrap all those carefully made cookies to deliver. And what do you get in return? Someone else's homemade cookies.
7. THE GROANING BOARD-AND COOK
Back in July the Polynesian Christmas recipe book seemed like a good idea. Now that the Shitake mushrooms burned and the Tahini paste curdled, even the pineapple stuffing with Macadamia nuts won't save the day.
Tattoo this across your forehead: Same Old, Same Old. Men don't like change. They want the same old mashed potatoes, the same old dressing, and the same old cook-hopefully.
8. YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE---REALLY!
You don't expect a total stranger to know your secret desires, your little dislikes, your special color or scent-so why should you expect your flesh and blood to have a clue?
By now you know to put on that big smile and insist that it is wonderful and they are wonderful. Then sneak it back to the store and get what you really wanted.
9. CHRISTMAS MELTDOWNS
At some point you lose your cool. You sit in the corner blathering like a fool because you have one Christmas card left of the 346 you stamped and are minus one little stamp.
You are given the hint for a "must-have" present too late-- the "won't want' one is already under the tree. Avoid the rush-have the meltdown before December 6, then you can float in a daze through the rest of the season.
10. THE OTHER HALF
Let's face it, ladies - men have a wonderful holiday. Wouldn't you, if you watched football all weekend and did your shopping on December 24 at 6pm?
Oh, there might be a few guys out there who INSIST on cooking the holiday dinner, and who ADORE standing for hours in long lines to buy Little Missy's Princess Castle and Spa, but none of my acquaintance.
There might be a few guys out there who really do address Christmas cards, or who feel competent enough to decorate the house and not merely whack a metal tree stand onto a live tree (divesting the tree of 6 branches in the process)
One year Himself did climb an extension ladder to drape lights on the tall blue spruce outside, but that was 15 years ago and he reminds me every year of his great deed.
No, men I know are the ones who wander through the mall, glassy-eyed and clueless, until they are hooked into a jewelry store by a relative of the fox in Pinocchio, and leave several minutes later with a small box and a big credit charge.
The store manager is high-fiving the salesclerk for finally unloading the zirconium tiara leftover from holiday season 1998.
That is why I hate December.
But I LOVE Christmas.
When the house is settled under a blanket of snow, the lights flickering on the tree that holds ornaments of many memories, when garlands scent the room, and every stocking sways from the mantle, it is then that a peace descends like no other. The little manger scene so carefully unwrapped each year and given prominence in the house stands out in its simplicity. The story, always new, gives hope to a weary world.
We are reminded that before we can celebrate, we must prepare. Not cleaning and baking and wrapping alone in preparation, but preparing also in our hearts for the Advent season, for His coming.
December drags me, protesting and grumbling all the way, right up to the manger. Then I kneel again in awe at the wonder of Christmas. Lord, you knew I'd get here, didn't you?
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