As the Christmas holiday fast approaches (and by “fast” I mean it may already be over, or just starting. Heck, I don’t know. Christmas music never seems to turn off), people across the globe are preparing to disappoint their loved ones like it was their birthdays.
This is it. This is America’s contribution to the world – making people feel guilty for not buying enough junk.
Junk. It’s always junk. Just for once I’d like to buy my loved ones stuff, or maybe even things.
I grew up in a house where we decorated with salt and pepper shakers that looked like Santa and Mrs. Claus, lights, wreaths, a tree, candles and we sometimes wore pajamas no one in their right mind would wear in front of anyone who wasn’t forced by blood to live with them.
Then, after an entire day of my mom cooking, we’d wake to presents under the tree, a great meal that lasted the whole week and sometimes relatives I didn’t know would come over.
But the biggest part was presents. I didn’t realize until I was an adult how hard it is to give presents. As a boy, I just signed my name on someone else’s card. Easy.
“Hey, thanks for the blabbidy-blah-blah,” Cousin Someone would say. I’d nod and tell her, “You’re welcome,” not knowing what she was talking about.
Geez. What is she talking about? That sweater she’s holding looks stupid.
Now I not only have to buy presents; those presents have to mean something. This is real pressure.
Have you ever seen a list of the greatest stress causers? Those usually include, 1) death of a loved one, 2) divorce, 3) loss of job, 4) moving into a new home, etc. Sure, those things are hard, but they’re also called life. What causes real stress is buying a good Christmas present.
This is why I adopted the following low-stress Christmas routine that gets me through the holidays as surely as a good psychiatrist.
Jason’s Christmas traditions:
• Appreciate the neighborhood holiday decorations I can see from the front window.
• The Christmas cookie, like revenge, is a dish best served cold – and from the store.
• The word “tree” is often used to describe an actual tree cut from a forest or farm, or something plastic bought from a store, when it is just as easy to say “tree” when pointing to a roughly-drawn picture, a stack of beer cans, or block of triangularly-cut wood.
• Read to the children the Yule Log, which is a holiday message from the captain of the USS Enterprise.
• Set up a nativity scene using items from around the house, like a Fisher-Price farm set, a G.I. Joe, Cartman from “South Park,” Thanksgiving candles of pilgrims and an action figure of Taylor from “Planet of the Apes.”
• Watch 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (except the last few minutes), “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and the episode “You Better Watch Out” from season two of “Married … With Children.”
• And Christmas dinner? Whatever’s in Grandma and Grandpa’s fridge.
Merry Christmas from the Offutts.
Jason Offutt’s newest novel, “Bad Day for a Road Trip,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.