Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It's Never Too Soon

....to start bitching about the holiday season!

I noticed last week that the houses for sale inmy neighborhood- there are a lot of houses for sale in my neighborhood- already have Christmas wreaths on their doors, I guess to give prosepective buyers that special hoome0for-the-holidays feeling. I talked to our gardener this morning who said he probably woulnd't be seeing us again until spring, since next week he has to start stringing lights and hanging garland for his posher customers. "People get started early around here," he said. "It just gets too cold after Thanksgiving."

I guess all this means the saason is upon us, already.

All right. The truth about Christmas.

Let's face it, Christmas is hell. No other time of year, with the possible exception of the dreaded day in April. gives anyone as many headaches as Christmas. This is especially true for women, upon whose shoulders most of the burden of merry-making falls. All the mind-wearying speculation about who wants what; all the cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, all the runnign out of stamps followed by the trips to the post office where you get to wait on line for half an hour before you can accomplish anything; all the mail, all the bills, all the budgeting. And of course, all the shopping.

Christmas shopping. A special division of hell.

Get in the car, Stop for gas. FIllup in the cold. Drive to the mall. Look for a parking space. Look and look and look for a parking space. Maybe a fender-bender or two as you look for a parking space. Avoid eye contact with other spaceseeker s as this may compromise your integrity when you zoom into a space just before they do. Race into mall. Shop for gifts. Shop for hours before you see a possible gift. Decide you should do some comparison shopping before rushing into any foolish wastes of money. Find the same item in another store, at a higher price. Return to first store to buy it at lower price. FInd they have just sold their last one. End up traipsing back to other store and paying more. Kick self along the way.

Collect a couple of bags of gifts. Lug them around with you since you know your car will be broken into if you put them in the trunk. And let's not leave out every shopper's favorite activity: waiting on line at the cashier.

It was while waiting on such a line one year that I had my great revelation about Christmas. I was stanidn on line in the Men's Department at Macy's. I was buying, what else, socks. (Do men ever not ask for socks as a Christmas present?)

The line was long. It stretched from the cashier's station all the way across the big divide and into the cosmetics department. Estee Lauder ladies were shooting sniffy glances at people clutching flannel shirts and boxers.

I ususally bring a paperback along with me whenever I go Christmas shopping. I get a lont of reading done at this time of year. For a while I tried bringing along sopme spiritual reading- Advent plus shopping, I was going for a twofer- but with bustling crowds, piped in Christmas carols and those constant bingbons you're always hearing on department stroe sound systems I finally concluded I didnt' have the requires powers of concentration. So I switched to trashy mysteries.

Anyway this one time I had forgotten anything to read. There I was for what seemed like hours. clutchig my three pairs of wool socks while people in front of me were ringing up entire wardrobes.

My mind wandered. I found myself looking at the decorations- how much does Macy's spend on Christmas decorations, I wonder? probably enough to retire the debt of at least three coutries- listening to the seasonal muzak, and studying my fellow shoppers. Weary women, impatient men.

How many of them, I wondered, were there with even half an intention to honor the birth of Christ?

That's when it hit me: that was why I was here. I was here because this is how Americans honor Christ's coming, by running ourselves ragged trying to make everyone happy for at least one day. That was why I bought the presents, that was why I carted them home and wrapped them up and put them under the tree.

I knew this was true not because I had any particular depth of soul.

I knew it because I knew there was no way in hell I'd set foot in Macy's in December for anyting less than the arrival of God on earth.

It was the first time in my life I could honestly say I was doing something to honor Christ and His coming. I don't know what He'd say about my method, but at least my intentions were- amazingly- pretty damn pure.


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Elinor Dashwood said...

Order from Lands End or the Brooks Brothers catalogue, and save your feet. I gave up Christmas shopping in person when I was expecting your godson*, and the doctor straitly forbade me to stand around in stores and malls. You shop in your pyjamas and the nice man in brown brings it all straight to your door. Can't be beat.

* Find his blog here at

Jerome said...

Excellent post.

Never thought of Christmas shopping as an Advent penance, but then I do mine in September if I can.