We Americans have just recovered, or not, from the countdown to Election Day. Now, we are once again counting down —to Christmas. Perhaps not as contentious, but stressful nevertheless. It seems to start earlier every year, right? Around Halloween, we spot those little red and green holiday items relegated to a small part of the store. Sadly some folks have bypassed Thanksgiving, or celebrate a shorter version. They opted to substitute crushing mobs celebrating “retail mania” coupled with “getting it all done,” rather than celebrating with loved ones over late pumpkin pie and leftovers. This single phenomenon blows my mind. Thanksgiving is the most sacred of holidays, yet its significance has been blurred over the years.
The jarring voices on TV and the world at large are flashing these not so subliminal messages: “Hurry! Hurry! There are only 15 shopping days left until Christmas and our psyches are responding in a frenzy to get it all done. In our already overscheduled, over- lived lives, we are adding more of the “must do’s.”
So how are you doing?
Are your holiday cards in the mail? Or perhaps you haven’t bought them yet. Now, at this late date, you may forgo the card thing entirely. Smart!
Did you purchase all your gifts in one fell swoop, not giving much thought to the gift or the receiver? I get it. We gotta check off all the names on the damn list, regardless of who is naughty or nice. Poor Uncle Joe may receive another useless tie.
Do you painstakingly pick out gifts that are really suited to the receiver? Or are you so far behind that freak-out mode is upon you.
Did you succumb to buying a slew of gifts cards? It’s the easiest way to get it done, and probably the most appreciated.
Is your house decorated? Perhaps you put up your tree the day after Thanksgiving, – or the day before. If you are like me, the idea of lugging all that Christmas stuff from the attic or basement has you paralyzed.
Did you get you menu sorted out? Do you remember those who are gluten, lactose or any other intolerant?
Did you start your holiday baking? The same criteria apply – keep any “intolerant” out of the ingredients.
Are you putting yourself through hell by inviting feuding family members? Maybe you can put them at the kiddie table where they belong. Another option is to stuff the turkey with Xanax.
If you are lucky enough to have parents of a certain age, did you gift them with something they can really use instead of more of what they already have? Mom may love a freebie at her hair salon or a massage. (Hint, Greg and Jeff!) . Maybe Dad would be appreciate having his car filled with a tank of gas once a month.
How’s your charge card looking? Uh oh! Probably better not to look!
In all of this busy work did you leave time to worship?
My last question, I promise: Is is all of the above absolutely necessary, except leaving time for worship? Methinks not!
When did the beautiful sentiments of peace on earth, goodwill to all get replaced with “I wish this was over, already?” C’mon at one time or another, we have all wished this lovely season would pass, be honest now. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all stopped—and enjoyed a freeze frame moment by sending loving thoughts out into the universe. Although I am a forward-thinking gal, sometimes wish I could turn back the clock to “back then” when Christmas meant more family time, Midnight Mass and small handmade gifts created in love and not in China. We welcomed those annoying relatives with one caveat: We plied them with a little vino until everyone was smiling.
Our priests, ministers, and church leaders are like those ancient prophets crying out in the wilderness. Churches are in fierce competition with the secular world trying to raise their voices above the “hurry, hurry” to get the message of peace on earth, goodwill to all. That is the true meaning of Christmas, after all. Imagine a gift we can give to the world that would resonate with humankind? Can we do it one person at a time? Here’s an idea: Instead of belly-aching about all we have to do, perhaps we can light one candle in our hearts, promising to do one thing that will be life-giving, instead of the superficial stuff that permeates the holiday.
As a family a few years ago, my sons and their spouses decided to forgo gift giving to each other. Instead, we paid one month’s rent for our dear friend Pam who was in Texas undergoing cancer treatment. Pam died a couple of years ago, but the tradition lives on.
I work in an assisted living facility where it is common to see forgotten folks. They are the “you and me” of yesteryear. How about stopping by for visit? They may not remember you came, but for the moment they will remember happiness.
Teach your children or grandchildren to be other-centered and forego one gift to help a needy kid.
Even if your first impulse is to “flip the bird,” let the other car go ahead of you as you race for a parking spot.
Take an elderly neighbor shopping.
For heaven’s sake, take in your neighbor’s garbage pail once in a while; you know she gets home late from work! (The garbage pail thing is my pet peeve.)
You may be thinking, “this gal is off her rocker, I’ve got enough to do. I can’t fit one of those aforementioned good intentions in.” But you don’t have to fit it in. Just remove one item on your list of “must do’s.”
Some of us have been through a lot of “stuff” this year. Our country has been turned upside down by hate and intolerant rhetoric. Collectively, we can attempt to do one thing to offset the negative and strive for the betterment of humanity. Together, we can make the words of this much loved Christmas carol a reality:
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth Goodwill to men”
And peace and goodwill to you, my faithful readers.
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.
Write to Ceil: