Saturday, December 4, 2010

Happier Holidays!!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year (especially now that I don't have to wear five layers of clothes just to take the trash out). But there's no denying it's not quite what it used to be. Granted, part of that is simply growing up. There's virtually no way to continue to see things with the wonder and joy of a child year after year after year.

Still, some of it is operator error -- and therefore correctable to a certain degree. Here are my suggestions for making the holiday season better. Some of them are simple; some are more complicated; others are simply fantasy.

The Season's Greeting Freedom Act. Congress needs to pass a law declaring that no one -- not your parents or your boss or your neighborhood activist -- can dictate the greeting you choose to use at this time of year. Merry Christmas. Season's Greetings. Happy Holidays. Happy Chanukah. Joyous Noel. It's all fair game.

Enough of the whining and the bitching and the boycotts for the love of Mike! If you are unable to practice your faith -- whether that faith is Christianity, Judaism, Muslim or Atheism -- because of two words that some salesperson says to you as you leave the store then, to quote Suzanne Sugarbaker, you've got bigger problems than lesbians in your sauna. If I can refrain from punching you in the throat when you tell me to have a "blessed day", you can suck it up when someone wishes you a Happy Kwanzaa.

Before this escalates into a complete war, I'll make you all a deal. If you don't get up in my face with "Jesus is the reason for the season" every time someone says Happy Holidays, I won't pull out the long-winded and pointless explanation of how the church chose December 25 to celebrate Christmas in order to compete with the pagan solstice celebration. And vice versa for the non-Christmas celebrators. Merry Christmas isn't a condemnation of your faith nor is it a commandment from God. It's a pleasantry, just like "have a good day" (and don't get me started on that).

The correct response to any of the greetings mentioned above (even "have a blessed day") is "Thanks. You do the same." Practice it in front of a mirror before you leave the house if you have to.
Christmas at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

Three-Day Weekend. If there was ever a holiday (or collection of holidays) that screamed out for a "third Monday in December" designation, it's Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa. Here comes the flood of religious indignation. I can hear it before I've even posted this, but just hear me out.

No one is stopping anyone from having their religious ceremonies whenever they see fit, but we are a multi-ethnic, many-faithed nation. Why not just designate a single national holiday to commemorate the whole of them -- like President's Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day? One of the best things about Thanksgiving is that you always know you can make it a four-day weekend every year. But December 25 is a different day every year. And I don't know about you, but I hate Christmas on a Wednesday. I never have the luxury of taking the whole week off.

Since this is one of the suggestions that falls into the "complete fantasy" category, I'm not going to spend any more time on it, but I think it's a brilliant idea.

Send Christmas Cards. I'm probably the biggest slacker here. I've had the same three boxes of Christmas cards in my Christmas decoration box since January, 2006, I bought them during one of my 3 a.m., three-hour, $200 trips to Eckerd Drugs in Astoria. I know why I never got around to sending them in 2006 and 2007, but I really have no excuse for the last two years.

Now, I don't think everyone needs to go crazy and send out a hundred cards every year. In fact, I think that mindset is what stops so many people from sending them to begin with. I've come up with a little strategy I'm going to try out this year and see how it goes. First, I'm only going to buy one book of stamps -- 20 cards seems doable.

Top priority are friends / family that have small children. One of my favorite things about Christmas when I was a kid was that we would tape every card we got on the closet door in the living room. It was the first thing we saw when we came down the steps in the morning and I almost always stopped and looked them over every single morning.

After that, I'm just going to pick out the people I think will most enjoy getting a card from me. It's almost the reverse of how I used to do it, which was to send one to everyone I thought might get pissed off at me if they found out I sent a card to someone else and not them. It sucked all the joy out of the process. But if you're looking for a little more guidance than that, I can tell you from personal experience that getting cards from friends meant just a little bit more to me the years that I've lived alone. It's a hard time of year to be lonely (even when you like living alone) and those little thoughts are huge.

Watch Christmas Specials. Last year I blogged about my favorite Christmas music (and I might blog about more of it this year), some of which comes directly from the Christmas specials I watched as a kid. As I get older, I find that the things that put me most in the holiday spirit are the things that remind me of my childhood.

It doesn't really matter which of the shows are your favorites, just pick a couple of them and enjoy. Even better is to record (or buy) them and invite some friends over to watch with you. Best it to watch them with kids. Not only do you get the enjoyment of the show, but of watching the kids' reactions and remembering what pure joy looks like.

Rockefeller Center
Be a Tourist. Wherever you live, there is something Christmas-sy nearby that is specific to there. Don't be a grinch. If you live in NYC, go see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. In fact, if you aren't opposed -- like I am -- to walking around with knives on your feet, go skating at the ice rink there.

Here in San Diego we have Candy Cane Lane -- a total of 55 houses in one neighborhood completely over-decorated and garish to the point of sheer magnificence. It was my favorite thing to do when I lived here before and I'm sure it will be my favorite thing to do this year as well.

Candy Cane Lane, San Diego
Whatever you do, make it a tradition. There's no better way to make the holidays special than to have something you look forward to every year.

Don't Spoil the Surprise. I actually have much stronger feelings about this particular suggestion than I'm going to share here. My real suggestion would be way too much for most people to handle.

Have a least one gift exchange where you don't tell each other what you want. It's gotten to a point where the real gift you get at Christmas is that other people do your shopping for you. "Here's my list. Don't screw it up!"

Sure it takes a little extra effort and it's a little more stressful to try to figure out what someone wants. And yeah, it can be a little disappointing to open a box and find something you have absolutely no use for. But there must be at least one person in your life that's worth the effort and that you trust to be able to pleasantly surprise you. Trust me on this one. When you're friend opens the box and sees well you know him / her and how much you care, the reaction will make you not give a damn what's in the box you're about to open.

Merry Christmas!!


  1. There's Festivus for the rest of us!!! Marry Christmas and Happy New Year, Petr!!! By the way, Candy Cane Lane looks cool!!!

  2. That's "Merry". I still can't type!!!

  3. @Rick - I was about to write Happy Festivus and you beat me to it!

    Petr- this was a really nice blog - I really enjoyed it and loved your idea on making Christmas card sending less stressful. (Paul actually does ours but even looking at the pile makes me feel stress)

    Happy Day to all,

  4. very well said..........