I love Christmas in the way that only the spiritually ambiguous can… To me, the holidays are all about candy canes and tree decorating and watching Love Actually. And spending time with friends and family in rooms filled with twinkling lights and giant trays of sugar cookies. But like most of the cool things in life, it takes a fair bit of planning and hard work to get to those magical moments of bonding with loved ones.
By ‘planning and hard work’ I DO NOT mean crazed, obsessive behaviour. There is no need to start your shopping while everyone else is still enjoying beach weather or to turn entire rooms of your house into present-wrapping shrines while the kids are still pondering what to be for Halloween. This is weird. I know lots of people who do it, but it’s still weird. In my opinion…
D-Day is December 1.
On December 1, it is perfectly acceptable to begin humming Christmas tunes (as long as it’s not Jingle Bell Rock because that is a wretched song) and it is definitely time to get organized. The first week of December sets the tone for the rest of the holiday season, so I adhere to a few simple DOs and DON’Ts:
DO stock up on wine
I cannot over-state the importance of this simple planning strategy. I still have flash backs to an occasion when I survived 4+ hours of front-line Christmas shopping and came home to discover that the only liquor in my house was a bottle of amber rum hubby had bought to add to the eggnog. Two thousand calories later, I had both a hangover and lactose-induced stomach cramps (haven’t enjoyed eggnog since). Malls close at 9:00pm. So do liquor stores. Enough said.
DO find a shopping buddy
Everything is more fun with a friend. Unless your friend has an unlimited budget and drags you to artisan craft shows where the only thing you can afford is sugar-free fudge that tastes like ass. Or your friend is bargain-obsessed and you have to spend entire evenings combing the aisles at Walmart (the least cheerful and Christmas-y place on earth).
Stick to a middle-of-the-road gal like yourself, who wants to buy an over-priced mocha-crappa-frappa drink at the mall, shop for a few hours and then find a warm booth in a bar where you can sip wine and look over your stash of goodies.
DO send out 6 Christmas cards
Most of us have about half a dozen people in our lives who really want to get a Christmas card- a couple of super-old relatives, a couple of over-achieving friends that you suspect keep track of who has it together enough to mail out cards, and a couple of folks you have cut off your gift list but don’t want to forget about entirely. That’s it… 6!
It’s no big deal to spend half an hour scribbling a few well-worded sentiments into this scant number of cards. But you have to be firm about the number…6… not 7 or 8 or 52… just 6. Because Christmas card lists can grow into unruly messes in the blink of an eye. Next thing you know, you are knee-deep in red envelopes and you’re into the second bottle of wine, and God knows what you’ve written.
DO NOT enter any arts-and-crafts type store
$200+ later there will be a chair in your living room covered in glass ornament balls and really expensive paints in very tiny tubes; or llama wool with strange, circular knitting needles; or undecorated wooded boxes and an assortment of ribbons and papers and shiny glues that have to spread on with brushes.
And every day that you are not painting or knitting or gluing yourself into a frenzy, you will feel a little guilty… not guilty enough to actually begin painting or knitting or gluing, just guilty enough to suck the pleasure out of sipping your evening glass of wine.
Note: If you have already fallen prey to the arts-and-crafts store demons, it is not too late to save yourself. Go immediately to the “storage” aisle of the nearest hardware store. Purchase a large, non-transparent plastic bin. Fill it with whatever is on the chair then put the bin in your attic, basement, or under a bed. DO NOT label the container. This should effectively protect you for at least a couple of years.
Remember that Christmas is a marathon, not a sprint. On the first week of December, start running but don’t let yourself get out of breath. Pace yourself. And make sure you have stockpiled wine. This is a Christmas season “DO” worth repeating!