Christmas is over. What a bummer.
When I was a kid, our family stretched Christmas from just after Thanksgiving, when we started to dig out the decorations, look through the Sears catalog for gifts we couldn’t even hope for, visit “Toyland” (the building on whatever Marine Corps base we inhabited that was dedicated to showing the gifts some collection of officers thought kids most wanted that year), right through New Year’s Day. By that time, everyone had gained several extra pounds, most of the gifts have been well used, and school was imminent. That promised bring-down always seemed to start the year off with less than happy anticipation.
Nowadays, when we, as adults, get to decide how all that year-end celebration will manifest, there remains a New Year’s slump compounded into our later years by resolutions made and quickly broken, or, lacking sufficient courage and character, never made at all.
In our home, we try to extend the fun of the holidays by magnifying that golden time following Halloween and ending with the January Thaw. The anticipation of Thanksgiving – the family, the food, football games – looms larger for me every year. And even though I cringe at the Christmas commercialism in the various media which comes earlier, it seems, every year, there is no denying that the approaching Christmas season marks a high point in our home.
Decorations are slowly put into place; the tree finally showing up, cards sent, cards received, telephone calls abound, cookies baked, and wrapped and delivered (and in times of relaxed kitchen surveillance, stolen!), gift shopping on the sly, school dismissed (a vicarious pleasure now that all our kids are long out), the countdown to Christmas Eve too slow, too fast, finally reaches zero, the Day, which, now that we have put down roots here, rarely, but occasionally, arrives swaddled in a white blanket.
It was, I admit with some chagrin, only a decade or two ago that I “realized” New Year’s Day comes every year exactly one week after Christmas. Perhaps it was the fact that Christmas began to be de-constructed on New Year’s Day and the accompanying dismay kept me from that one-week realization. Who can say?
I have, however, developed a technique that forestalls, if not prevents, that gathering dismay. It involves Christmas gifts.
As long as gifts remain under the tree, unwrapped, it seems almost sacrilegious to strike the Christmas decorations, take down the tree, put away the ornaments, coil the lights, begin the downer that the end of the holidays portends. So, don’t unwrap those gifts. At least, not all of them. Stretch the gift giving and receiving out for while. Build some anticipation. Leave some gifts under the tree for a while.
Now, it goes without saying that this is an impossible strategy when youngsters are involved! But for us putative adults, we can, if we wish, exercise a bit of restraint and withhold the rush of gifts, given and received, for a while. Particularly if we have the presence of mind to remember which gifts are “better”, “bigger”, more “important”, more “desired”, more “surprising”, and point out which should be opened first and which should be delayed, the wait rewarded with larger and larger smiles (especially when jewelry is involved.)
Sure, the season is about more than gift giving, some say much, much more, but that gift giving can be a “perfect” way to lengthen the season, and hold back the inevitable removal of all the Christmas accouterments. And when our attention is drawn away from the Christmas “stuff” by huge meals, great visits, quiet restful contemplation, and all those wonderful football games, we have help in delaying that removal.
This year, well into the new year, we successfully resisted the final exchange of that last gift, and thus held back the end of the holidays. Sooner or later, probably sooner, I will go out to feed the cattle, check the fences, collect the mail, and, upon my return, the glitter and brightness, the cuteness, the whimsy, the majesty of Christmas decoration and preparation will be noticeably reduced and retired for another year. Our home that slowly acquired a festive, joyous face as Christmas trappings were displayed will return to its normal light and pleasing appearance, and, for a few days, that gradual lessening of Christmas “stuff” will be noticed as it is put away until the cold weather returns next fall.
So, we turn our thoughts and attention to the playoffs, the conference championships, and that next fabulous holiday, lasting, thankfully, only one diet-busting, heart-rending, triumphant celebration day – the Superbowl!
A wonderful holiday season past, another year vaguely anticipated to begin, an interval marred this year only by a missed field goal that sent the Bears back into hibernation (even though their run defense reminded us of 1985) to emerge next year “guaranteed” to be even more successful than they were this year.
Christmas is over. What a bummer.