The Annual Christmas Shopping Crunch
Happy Holidays Everyone!
I'm saying it now because there's so little time between now and Christmas. I don't care if you're reading this in January, July or November, Christmas is COMING and we've got sooooo much to doooooo! Actually, I'm assuming that you, (like most of us), are starting your holiday shopping sometime closer to the actual holiday. Say, Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) or later. And as we all know, these are the shortest days of the year. Why then, do we (collectively) insist on cramming 39 hours of shopping/baking/wrapping/decorating/paryting into each and every day between now and December 24th? Isn't that the time equivalent of shoveling 10 lbs. of reindeer droppings into a 5 lb. sack?
Didn't we swear last year that we would never do this again and be organized next year so we could relax and enjoy the holiday season? Yeah, right. Right before we swore we'd never spend another New Year's Day hung over. Unh huh...
Seasonal Attention Defecit Disorder
I'd like to lodge an official complaint with the Department of Seasons. Seriously. Whoever thought up the concept October/November/December (aka fall) is a brown-nosing overachiever. He's risen way above his competence level. That asshole needs to be reassigned to a different department. And someone with some sanity (e.g., a working mother) should be put in charge of fall (and winter, spring and summer) activity planning.
You can bet your black patent leather Santa boots December would be a lot more pleasant with a woman in charge. No woman worth her eggnog would cram 80% of the year's social calendar into a single month. Am I right, or am I right?
Other Holiday Hubs by MM
Didn't we just carve pumpkins?
It seems like only last week we were carving jack-o-lanterns and sneaking Snickers out of the bowl. This week was Thanksgiving (here in the States, anyway). Yesterday was "Black Friday," which I only recently found out is called that because it is the day retail stores hope to turn a profit (e.g., move from "red" ink to "black") for the year.
From here, it is one hectic, overscheduled day after another. A frenzied, frenetic dash to the end of the year.
Are there ways to mitigate the madness? Absolutely. Every magazine cover at the checkout stand screams its own version of "have yourself a merrily stress-free holiday." I used to buy those magazines -- until I caught on. The tips are merely common sense and utterly, impossibly impractical -- unless you happen to be single, with no family obligations, and lots of money to spend pampering yourself. In other words, not me.
Don't tell me it's my own fault
I know there are people out there (perhaps a few good men, but waayyy too many women) who get all their Christmas shopping done by August. Have you noticed they always make a point of telling you that? Like this accomplishment makes them superior, or their presents any better than yours? Ok, I admit it. I am a bit jealous. I only wish I could be so on top of things.
This year I've been thinking of ways to organize myself better. My goal is to clear at least some to do's off my plate so the plate will be clean for Santa's cookies.
Here's what I came up with:
1. Online shopping. With any luck, I will not have to brave the stores at all. I can do all -- or at least the majority -- of my shopping online. With free supersaver shipping, old Santa in the brown shorts (that's the UPS man in case you didn't get it) will visit me every day! It will also save me money, as I will be less tempted by impulse buy for myself. You know that old "one gift for Johnny, one for moi,one for Jenny, one for moi" syndrome...?
2. Holiday newsletter and cards. For a brief moment I considered going digital on this longstanding tradition, too. After all, I send e-cards for birthdays, job changes, PMS support and "just because" the rest of the year. Would it be so wrong to send my annual newsletter as a PDF attachment? Actually, I think that day is coming. It's just not here yet. No, I still enjoy receiving cards and letters from friends at this time of year. No way around this one: I'm going to have to sit down and crank out my letter, hand address the cards ,and stick on the $.44 holiday themed stamps. Ouch. My writing hand feels cramped already!
3. Striking a work/life balance. Every day before Christmas is like Fridays the rest of the year. Fridays are either dead as a door nail (Jacob Marley reference there for you Dickens fans) or crazy, crazy busy. I can't remember a year when my work went dormant in December. I've always had a LOT going on. If my clients took vacation days it was only because they knew their marketing was in the capable hands of their agency elves (that would be me and the designers). One thing I have learned (the hard way) is to set better boundaries. I don't have to say "yes" to everything I'm asked -- unless it's more pie!
4. Decorating. Could this be the year of the minimalist holiday home? Yes, I think we can do that! We have boxes and boxes and boxes of decorations in the garage. But that doesn't mean we have to put out every single Christmas tsotchke we own. A 4' tree maybe instead of 8'? Skip the nutcracker collection? I don't think the quality of our celebration will suffer.
5. Cooking. Years ago my girlfriends and I used to gather to bake and exchange cookies. It was a nice ritual. They still do it, but I live 3,000 miles away. That's ok. It wouldn't be the same without them. This year I am considering doing 'something culinary' instead of buying all my gifts. Now, those of you who are paying attention will recognize that I am now contradicting myself. Yes, it's true. If I were to cook/bake or otherwise assemble something edible, I would have to go to the store to buy the ingredients. This is true. Obviously, this plan needs more thought. Note to self: Look for food gifts at amazon.com... but not on e-bay!
6. Exercise. Back to the advice in those magazines. They always tell you to limit your alcohol consumption during the holidays. Who are they kidding? The holidays are an open invitation to overindulge! How else are you supposed to get rid of those stupid sugar plum visions dancing around in your head? But it is important to keep your body moving to counteract all that rich holiday food. Hubby and I like to walk after dinner admiring the lights. We want to start our new year off right, not fat(ter).
To help you get organized
Make your own traditions
I think what bothers me most about the insane pace of the holidays is that it seems to be set by some invisible force. Sort of like gravity, but instead of down, it pulls you forward through December in a blur. You come to somewhere around January 2nd and say to yourself, "What just happened? Did I miss it? Did I have any fun? Did Santa Claus come, or did I dream it?"
It takes effort to resist this force. But it can be done. There will always be added pressure at this time of year. I've learned to scale back my expectations. I've learned to simplify plans and concentrate on simple joys.
It may sound cheesy, but the Hallmark Channel shows Christmas movies every night. Hubby and I have our own collection of probably a dozen Christmas movies. We've made our own ritual of choosing which to view each night -- with a blazing fire in the fireplace, and our cats on our laps.
Come to think of it, Christmas doesn't have to be crunch time at all. If I follow my own advice, it can be downright calm and cozy! So more than likely, you will be hearing the words "Happy Holidays" from me at least one more time in the next 30 days. In fact, you can count on that!