Christmas at our house is pretty much a piece of cake—rum soaked, that is. Simple, easy and stress-free (the cake is store-bought). This holiday meal’s no big deal; that’s what Thanksgiving is for. Boyfriend loves both of these holidays; to him, one is for cooking and one for chilling. We are still delighting in leftovers from our November feast, and by mid-December the frozen Tupperwares will just about be emptied. And the portions we forgot to freeze are now science projects—nothing that a glass of wine, a Hazmat suit, a sturdy trash bag and lots of quality time with Dawn detergent can’t remedy.
So, allowing Christmas to be a holiday for our kitchen as well as for us, our main course will be a one-pot or one-pan affair: gumbo or pizza. For some, like our friend Judy, tradition means going out for Chinese. Pleasure and simplicity can hold their own against big Martha Stewart–style extravaganzas. Of course, those big productions are great—in moderation (like once in a blue moon). Some of us just don’t have the greenbacks or time to finance and orchestrate elaborate holiday decorations, meals and gift-giving. But with a flair for tacky, a live-in chef (Boyfriend) armed with his Winn-Dixie card and personal shoppers (ourselves at Goodwill), we do manage to put the bling into Christmas.
I realize it’s too late to change the notion of buying gifts, but rein it in—you needn’t go to a loan shark to do it.
We may not really highlight the Sweet Baby Jesus’ Big Day angle of this respectable, praise-givin’ day, but we do absorb more than the give ’n’ get commercial blasphemy that often overtakes this holiday. So, with due respect, we will leave the religious folks to take special care of JC’s birthday and we’ll take care of the more mundane tasks of stringing gaudy lights and sending out Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Santa cards to friends and loved ones. And never forget the time-honored tradition of watching classic Christmas movie reruns.
It’s a Wonderful Life was my closest thing to a spiritual epiphany. While the book and film rendition of To Kill A Mockingbird worked to calibrate my ethical barometer, Jimmy Stewart’s journey through what might have been had he never been was (and still is) my lesson in exponentialism—the simple fact that good acts can snowball with life-changing results. We know, and even resign ourselves to, how one stupid, selfish or sinister deed can gather steam, allowing negative to beget more negative. Well, the same goes for good, and this film watched year after year reminds me that maybe, just maybe, on occasion I might produce and project something worthwhile (even when done unwittingly). So, as many go to church on Christmas to reaffirm something positive, I watch a klutzy guy fumble about with a scrappy angel named Clarence. My warm-and-fuzzy moment in Technicolor.
Okay, spiritual feel-good stuff aside, let’s talk about Santa and his giant goodie bag that this season brings to mind. I might not gift wrap stuff from Walmart, and Boyfriend had damn well better not buy me some piece of bling from Kay Jewelers, but we do love to exchange presents. We wrap up stuff from around the house in newspaper and ribbons, and even go crazy and purchase goodies at Goodwill or Walgreens. One can never have too many Saints T-shirts or too much dental floss. We might as well buy used jerseys, ’cause that expensive brand-new NFL one will be obsolete the moment you become connected to, bond with and (admit it) come to care about the player you are representing. At least dental floss won’t break your heart (or go out of fashion).
When justifying credit card debt over this holiday season, most folks will say, “Oh, but it’s for the children.” Sure, your kids will not jump for joy over a gift of dental floss, but you do them no benefit by turning Christmas into a gluttony of made-in-China gadgets and toys. I realize it’s too late to change the notion of buying gifts, but rein it in. You can stimulate the economy, put a smile on a kid’s face, wow someone with your secret Santa gift at the office and even woo your lover—and you needn’t go to a loan shark to do it.
So, this Christmas, consider introducing you and yours to some homemade gifts, regift something, overtip everyone, bake some cookies (or fry up a batch of something) for a neighbor, christen a newcomer to our city with a bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce, volunteer at an animal shelter or babysit for a tired mom. For those who can and may spend more freely, do it local, small and non-corporate. And if you need that one special day of the year all to yourself for a little quality time, then pass a good time or do a good deed in the weeks leading up to the big day and even pay it forward into the new year.