Sitting here, less than 24 hours 'til Christmas, not wrapping presents, because I can't find the tape and I refuse to even look for the scissors, because I know that somehow I'll just stumble across them somehow in the next few hours, I realize that everyone seems to have that holiday spirit (or lack thereof) stuck right there on the front part of their minds. I figured I'd ramble a bit about those seasonal traditions that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around, whether they be good ones, bad ones, or indifferent. There are a few holiday musts for some people that I personally don't understand. It's not that they're bad or wrong, it's simply that I don't get them,
1. Please Recycle. My whole life no one sent me a Christmas card. (Sure, my name got tagged onto the cards my parents were sent until well into college, but those don't count.) All that changed when my friends started getting married. All of a sudden, I'd made the list. It felt incredibly strange to me to think that some newlywed couple sat down a few weeks before the holidays and had a conversation about who was card worthy. It's even stranger to me that those people, the same people that I had not received a card from years past, now came to the decision that they should pay 32 cents to mail me a small piece of cardboard. What an unusual way to say Merry Christmas. "Have a wonderful time celebrating the birth of our Lord, here's a chimp with a Santa hat."
2. And Here in My Wallet is A Picture of... uh, Some Kid. Even stranger to me is opening a Christmas cards and finding a photograph inside. This odd development began around the time that my friends started having kids. Sure the kid is cute, and I'll even hang him or her on my fridge for a few weeks. (Here at the PlainOleHousehold, we actually have an entire side of the fridge dedicated to pictures of children that we've never actually seen in person). I totally get it for the first few years, babies are great and you want to show them off to the world, but there's got to be a stopping point. For example, my cousin. She's quite a bit older than me. We were never close. We never even lived in the same state. I believe that I've been in the same room as her less than two dozen times in my entire life, but yesterday I received a warm holiday greeting complete with a creepy picture of her two sons, aged seventeen and twenty-two, sitting in an awkward pose with a very odd looking sweaters on. Wallet size no less. Am I actually supposed to put this picture in my wallet? I know, it's the holidays, so it's the thought that counts and all that, but this is a very strange thought.
3. Oh Look Honey, There's Strangers Singing on Our Porch. Sorry, I don't get it. I'm not a big fan of Christmas music to begin with, and I really have a difficult time comprehending why most people's musical tastes change drastically in the month of December. (My sister wouldn't be caught dead listening to Bing Crosby the rest of the year, but the day after Thanksgiving he achieves some sort of god status.) Okay, if you like to sing, then I can understand the fun you might be having, but aside from the nursing homes or the kid's hospitals, I'm not certain that I've ever met anyone who truly enjoys being caroled. Get off the warm couch, open the door to the wind and cold, stand there inappropriately dressed for the weather, and smile a big fake plastic smile, all the while praying that these weirdos stop after one song. I can not imagine a more uncomfortable feeling.
4. It's the Thought That Counts A shout out to those of you in blog-land that preach the true meaning of the season. I start Christmas shopping the day after Christmas. In fact, I'm in a constant state of Christmas shopping. I search year round for the perfect gift for the people on my list. Granted it's a short list, only seven people, but I do put a lot of thought into it. I get a lot of pleasure out of watching other people open my gifts, I really do. That's my favorite part of Christmas. No, I don't spend a boatload of cash, but I do think I do a great job of finding just the right gifts. The student loan officer and the mortgage company appreciate my thriftiness, but I also think that my friends and family see the thought and care I put into things. Sometimes I wish they'd return the favor. Most of my family, and other people I talk to, seem to believe not in quality, or even quantity, but in fair market value and net worth. I overheard a few parents in the store today, trying to find a way to even out the dollar value of the children's gifts. My own mother told me the other day that she only has to but one more gift for me, because she spent more on my sister. I don't care what I get, or how much or it, just think of me. This year I will probably receive a fleece sweater that I won't wear, a fifteenth pair of pajama bottoms to put on the pile, a book that I've already read, a box of candy from my brother (who has known me for a long time and should know that I can't eat sugar), and a check from grandma. Yeah, yeah, yeah, ho, ho ho, it's the thought that counts, but sometimes there is no thought and that's the problem.
5. Secret Santa Needs to Check His List Twice Okay,I actually like the idea of secret Santas in a small office or in a large family where you can't possibly get everyone a gift, but it's gotten out of hand. It's now as if every workplace in North America feels the need to have a secret Santa gift exchange. No,we don't. I work in a school. There are forty-five teachers, ten-twelve support staff people, a handful of administrators, a staff of custodians, and I have no idea how many cafeteria workers. We had a secret Santa thing this year. Not wanting to be accused of being a Scrooge, I reluctantly signed up to participate. I drew Mrs. Hill. Who? Yeah, that's what I said, who? I had no idea who Mrs. Hill was. I didn't know what she taught. I didn't know if she taught. Heck, I didn't even know her first name. I asked three trusted friends, but none of them knew Mrs. Hill either. I would have asked more people, but what if I accidentally asked Mrs. Hill who Mrs. Hill was? What in the world was I supposed to buy this woman? I went with standard womanly things, like candles and soaps, but who knows if she'll like it? My wife's a woman and she'd throw junk like that away. Whoever drew my name must have at least known who I was (in addition to teaching, I coach the school baseball team), because I got a really nice coffee mug with a baseball team logo printed on it. It was heavy,so I figured that it was pretty expensive, but I gave it to a friend the next day, because I don't drink coffee and the logo stamped on there was the arch-rival of my favorite team.
Well, those are my Christmas pet peeves, I'm going to go toss my Christmas cards into the mailbox, maybe on the way back I'll stop at my neighbor's house and sing him a verse or two of Silent Night. Coming soon, the things I like about Christmas that most of you probably hate.