Last year I made a “Christmas resolution”: I resolved to cut back on my Christmas shopping, because I tend to go overboard.
I had seen this idea on Facebook that I vowed to follow for a change. I’m sure lots of folks have seen it – you take three (or maybe four) boxes in graduated sizes. In the biggest one you put a toy for the child recipient (or at least something the person, no matter the age, really, really wants). Then in the next smaller box you put an article of clothing – or an entire outfit or a pair of boots, you get the idea. In the third smallest box you put a snack item – or some kind of food/drink item – that is the person’s favorite indulgence. The final box has a book in it. And then you fashion a “scarf” so that you can tuck a gift card into it.
It’s a variation on the suggestion to stick to “something you want, something you need, something to eat and something to read.”
I really did think it was a great idea, but...
I shop for Christmas all year long. I have a closet that is dedicated to Christmas, and I buy things then put them in there for the next Christmas. In theory this works, because my plan is to start next year’s Christmas list immediately and write down everything I buy as soon as I buy it – and note for whom I intended that gift.
I say “in theory” because I find that as Christmas approaches, I have forgotten to write some things down. As a result, I might end up Dec. 1 with seven things for daughter-in-law Joy and only three for Liz or Cat.
So this year, by the time I thought about the snowman tower, I had already messed up the plan. But I’m thinking about it, at least.
I also have a thing about Christmas stockings. When I was a kid, I would get up on Christmas morning, go get my stocking and take it into my parents’ room to open its contents. (Remember, I’m an only child.) My stocking had the requisite fruit and nuts plus my favorite candy. But it also always included one special gift – often jewelry, often one of the nicest presents I got. I have since wondered if that was related to my parents’ childhoods. My mother was raised in a very bad foster home and had no recollection of ever getting anything wonderful for Christmas. And my daddy – I know I’ve told this story before, so bear with me – always got only a stocking (on old Christmas – Jan. 6, you know, the 12th day of Christmas). The best Christmas he recalled was the year that, in addition to nuts and fruit, he got a pocket knife in his sock (not really a stocking, by the way).
Anyway, stockings were always important to me. For years after I married, I would make sure everyone else had a stocking on Christmas morning. In fact, I needlepointed one when Mac was born and then smocked stockings for Cat and Liz. Even Tom had a stocking, but I did not. Then, maybe I complained to my best friend, Susan, about being the only person in our household without a stocking. (Well, as long as my parents were still alive, I continued to get a stocking at their house, but not at my house.) One Christmas Susan decided she would take it upon herself to give me a Christmas stocking – and to try to shame Tom into taking on the task in the future. She continued to provide stocking stuffers for a few more years until she was sure Tom could be trusted to handle it.
After continuing several years with a mishmash of stockings on our mantel, last year I decided my family might be set enough that I could trade in the variety of stockings for ones that matched. Now, 15 stockings grace our mantel, and I must fill everyone.
So, as I said, I started thinking about scaling back – until my granddaughter Payton made a comment that puts the pressure back on. The other day, she was looking at the gifts under our tree and said. “I think we do Christmas right, ... in the right order.” She explained that her family starts before Christmas at her other grandmother’s house for a Christmas party and gifts. (In reality, like so many kids in today’s world, she has two more grandparent families, so she goes from celebration to celebration in the days before Christmas.) But she went on, “Then on Christmas Day we start at our house (Santa, gifts from mom and dad and brunch), and we end up at YaYa and Opa’s house.” And she said it gleefully, emphasizing her point by indicating the huge mass of gifts under the tree.
I confess that we used to have one person open a gift while others watched, taking turns until all were opened. But these days, with 15 people in the house on Christmas Day, we can’t do that – it would take all night.
Trust me, we spend time on the true “reason for the season.” And I have always felt that giving gifts to those we love is a reminder of the gifts of the magi to the baby Jesus.
As I’ve said, I love Christmas, and my love for all things Christmas has always been manifested through my desire to find the right gift – or in this case, gifts – for each person.
So this year, once again, my husband will assure you that I have gone overboard. And I may have to admit scaling back would possibly be a good thing.
So I have resolved, once more: Next year, I promise.
Meanwhile, in the Christmas tradition set by Sam Woodring long ago: