by Nancy Northcott
Before we start today's blog, please join the entire lair in wishing our friends Maria and Marisa at RNTV a very happy birthday! We're all grateful for the wonderful promotion they give our genre. If you get a chance, pop over there and give them birthday greetings.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .
Tomorrow is, in the United States, Thanksgiving Day, a time for friends and family to gather, take time out from the usual rush of life, and reflect on the good things in our lives. It's generally a day of tranquility, of peace and reflection.
And then the madness begins! "Black Friday," as it's called because so many merchants depend on it to keep their ledgers in black ink for the rest of the year, follows hard on Thanksgiving's heels. Malls and big box stores become swamped. While this day theoretically belongs to thoughts of others, to shopping for something to bring joy to the people for whom we were grateful the day before, it seems to bring out the worst in some people.
Parents start scheming--who do they know who works in retail and can get this year's equivalent of a Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo? (I confess to having spent a couple of hours driving around town in search of the Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Disk one Christmas Eve and finding one only because I happened to walk into the toy store just after someone returned it.) Special deals on limited-quantity items spur people to stand in line for hours, then stampede into the store, often with serious injuries resulting. People battle over the last Hot Gizmo in stock as if they were Joan's gladiators. The police often have to come restore order. This is the spirit of Christmas? Or is it our American tendency to compete coming to the fore in a very destructive way? Or a little of both?
Just as an aside here, I'm a sucker for Christmas decorations. Seriously. I'd rather not have seen them since before Halloween, but after December 1, I love them. I even loved them on my recent trip to NY and felt that, considering that I was in town for just a couple of days, the big tree at Rockefeller Center really should've been lit so I could see it. Even if December 1 was a week away (just kidding, but I've only seen it once and was so hoping to see it again).
But the premature appearance of tinsel and holly and Santa seem to gear us all up for this shopping marathon-sprint- madhouse. Then Thanksgiving comes, and it's "Oh, my gosh, the good stuff will be gone if I don't hurry!" For some people. Not for everyone, of course. I know plenty of people who go out on Black Friday with a plan, avoid places that could lead to mass insanity and violence, and are home by lunchtime.
From there, though, it's holiday cards, home decorations, shopping, packing, mailing--an evolving list that leads lead up to a "whew, it's done!" about midnight on Christmas Eve. And, sometimes, to a letdown on Christmas morning, a sense that weeks of work led up to a brief frenzy of tearing paper and blinking tree lights. Sort of like the scene of the family opening gifts in the dh's favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story.
Our Christmases were leisurely when the boy was little. We'd get up, peek into our stockings, and watch him play with Santa's gifts while his dad made Swedish pancakes, a tradition in his family. Then we'd have our pancakes and open our gifts. Since our son wanted to play with each new gift, we paused frequently in the opening process to enjoy watching him do that. Now that he has "graduated" to electronics and video games, it isn't the same, but we still try to take the day slowly, to really look at and think about the various gifts we exchange, the people who gave them, and the fact that our family has reached another Christmas.
We also have friends, Roberta and Art, who are Jewish but loved Christmas. Since they don't feel right about decorating, they came over every year until they moved out of state to help us decorate our tree. We'd spend a leisurely afternoon putting up ornaments, visiting, and discussing the holiday. They often contributed ornaments to the cause, and Roberta made us a beautiful Christmas tree skirt that we cherish. Every year, we think of them when we hang their ornaments or drape that wonderful skirt around the tree.
Because I love Christmas decorations and the dh loves everything Christmas (and has made his own Christmas cards--now our cards--since long before I knew him), we've amassed a fair number of decorative items. We try to buy an ornament everywhere we go on vacation (though we have none from England, which seems strange when we think how much we love it), and people give us ornaments and decorations. A couple of years ago, though, we were both going nuts in the lead-up to the holiday. We looked at each other and said, "What are we doing? This is supposed to make our house cheerful, not transform us into frenzied lunatics." So we put up the tree, put out the snow globes, and stuck the candletower in the middle of the table. And called it done. And you know what? We had just as much fun as we would've had with every piece of holiday bric-a-brac in place. Maybe we even had more fun because we didn't hit December 25 in a state of deadline anxiety.
So what do you find most challenging about the holiday season? What's your favorite coping technique? Do you have a favorite memory of holiday preparations?