That’s right….I’m not afraid of, nor stressed out by, Christmas. Because as with all other Christmases for many years now, I finished my Christmas chores activities last Sunday. So I can just relax, sipping an espresso enhanced with sweet condensed milk while others are panicking.
I admit that I have a lot less to do than most folks. No tree, for example. Well… not one that I set up anyway. 😉
We have an artificial tree I used to set up, along with lights in the window. And even some big, ridiculous, plastic blow-up ornaments we bought at a dollar store (and which I’ve never seen for sale since) to hang on trees outside. That was years ago. No more…
The tree was the first casualty. We never had children, and I feel a tree is mainly for them. Besides, no one could see the tree from outside the house because we put it up in the living room, which is in the back part of the house. Nor would I want anyone to see the tree from outside.
First, I value my privacy and rarely have the blinds in the front of the house open. That way I can ignore solicitors because that’s who is usually at the front door. Our friends know to come to the back door because that‘s where they end up after coming up our driveway. (We have a detached garage in back of the house.)
Second, the house is set back quite a bit from the road (out lot is about 2/3 acre), and is at the top of a hill, so I’m not sure how visible a tree would even be. Third, there really is no place to put a tree in the front because all the areas next to windows are occupied and any other location would disrupt traffic flow.
There’s another, more compelling (to me, at least) reason I don’t believe in displaying a Christmas tree visible through a window. It has to do with being raised in a Third World country and a cultural aversion to ostentatious displays of socio-economic status but I’d digress to0 much from my topic today to explain much more than that.
Now don’t appeal to me to have a tree, not visible through a window, on sentimental grounds. I have no sentimentality when it comes to Christmas. My earliest childhood memory of Christmas is being asked to pick a half-dozen items I wanted out of a J.C. Penney catalogue, of which two or three would appear under the tree on Christmas day. (That was one of the many advantages to being an only child – no competition.) And certainly no letters to Santa Claus or anything of that sort.
So if we have no children, I object to displaying a tree visible through a window, and have no sentimentality about Christmas, it is obvious why I decided that putting up a tree was a whole lot of work for little “benefit.” That’s why I quit doing it some years ago.
Now Susie believes in a Christmas tree. After I quit putting up the artificial one, she went out to a nursery and found some sort of live evergreen tree that is in a pot in the yard most of the year. But in December, she drags it in and decorates it. Now I’m 5’6” and this tree is a bit shorter than me and has maybe 15 basic decorations on it that I believe are from her childhood because I can‘t recall ever buying them. But it does the job for her, so that’s fine with me.
The dominoes never fell in VietNam but the Christmas ones sure fell in our house. It didn’t take too long after I gave up on a Christmas tree to decide that the unpretentious 😉 mini-lights I strung up in the picture window in the front of the house were a waste of time and electricity.
That was quickly followed by the demise of those plastic outdoor ornaments. The only thing visible from the street is a wreath on the front door. Susie hangs that too. Bottom line: I have no involvement in creating any sort of Christmas environment inside or outside the house. Bah, humbug! 😉
So what do I do? I handle “external” Christmas affairs. I take care of all the Christmas cards, which is about 40-something this year (down from about 50-something last year). Most of those cards go to my high school friends, so of course they should be my responsibility. I pick up the rest “gratis.” About a half dozen go to Susie’s friends and relatives. Another half dozen go to mutual friends.
You might think that Christmas cards are no big deal. But I bring to that task the same planning and organization I used in my college activist days which I recently posted about.
Each year, I make a list of what card is sent to whom and consult the previous year’s list when I decide which card to send to someone. I do this because I often use a variety of cards (usually with a polar bear motif and often from National Geographic, World Wildlife Fund, etc.) and want to make sure I do not send the same folks the same cards from year to year. That would be a major social faux pas! (I have those lists going back over 10 years…not that I have any cards left from that far back.)
Also, while I love computers, I eschew the computer Christmas form letter. First, I don’t believe most folks are really interested in a two page form letter of what I’ve been up to for the entire year…heck, I can’t even remember what I did last weekend! (Wait…I’m writing about some of it!) I think a short note about something they can personally relate to is much more in the Christmas spirit, to the extent I have any of that. 😉
A hand written note lets them know they are not receiving some slightly altered form letter that everyone else is receiving, that I actually took the time to think about them personally. I have fairly good penmanship, although it is print and not longhand. I am in enough regular communication with some folks that I do not feel any need to write a note in the card. (About three years ago, I did succumb to printing the address labels by computer rather than hand printing those, although only 30 labels fit on a sheet so I have to address the rest by hand.)
My other Christmas activity is boxing up less than half a dozen gifts that need to be mailed. I’m pretty good at that. Susie’s role in this is to hold the box flaps together while I apply the tape. She then mails the packages out the following Monday so I don’t have to fight the weekend crowd. (Saturday, I heard from a friend in California that our package was delivered in damaged condition by the Post Office, probably by part-timers looking to help themselves to some presents; next year, it’s UPS.)
We do all our Christmas shopping as we travel throughout the year. This way, our gifts are somewhat unique, I”m done by Thanksgiving weekend and we don’t need to be part of the craziness at the local malls. This year, folks are receiving gifts we picked up during our “Spring Break” in New Orleans; from our summer trip to southern Utah; and from our recent trip to Puerto Rico.
I will confess to going to the mall yesterday. I could say that I did it to get Susie out of the house since she spends five days a week going no further than walking our street for an hour if the weather permits. But I’d be lying since we usually go to a movie on Saturday.
Both JCPenney and World Market sent me $10 certificates and I wanted to see if I could put them to use. I got lucky at Penney’s and picked up some Izod slacks that listed (but I’m sure never sold even once) for $50 but were on sale for $20. In a dark gray that I needed. At World Market, I picked up 20 Christmas gift stocking stuffers for everyone at the office. They’re easy to buy for: anything edible! (I blame them for the 10 pounds I’ve gained since working there; we’re always eating and we have some good cooks, including a woman who makes an incredible leche flan.)
The mall was packed in a way I’d not seen the few times we’ve been there this year. I overheard a few tempers flare as the stress got to some folks. That’s why I like my approach! Ho, ho, ho!
If you’re feeling guilty about even reading this post because I’m done and you should be taking care of your Christmas tasks, I’ll try to help you leave with a smile. With twelve days left to Christmas, here’s a light-hearted “Twelve Days of Christmas” from a Philippine perspective by a Filipina who plays every role, including her father (which is why you never fully see “his” face). This video generated over 5,000 comments about how “authentic” it is.
Maligayang Pasko! (Merry Christmas!)
(Cultural note: SPAM is very popular in the Philippines. )