It’s Turkey Day, and I know I’m supposed to be brimming with gratitude, but instead I’m having a heaping helping of harrumph smothered with grumpy gravy. And since I’m a vegetarian, I can’t even blame the tryptophan for bringing me down.
I’m not typically one of those bah-humbug types who hates the holidays. I’m at the other end of the spectrum—you know, the super-annoying type that loves everything about the season, from decorating the house to hosting big family get-togethers to belting out Christmas carols anywhere, anytime (just ask my kids—they LOVE this about me).
But this year my holiday season seems to have gotten off on the wrong stocking. It started with my daughter Hannah’s Christmas wish list; she began working on it a full six weeks ago, and it’s now a dozen typewritten pages long, complete with photos. It contains so much material that I could easily set it to music and make it into endless stanzas of The Twelve Page-long Wish List: “Five sterling charms! Four throw pillows! Three perfumes! Two pairs of Toms and a Lilly Pulitzer dress." If I started right now, I could “sing in” the New Year and still have verses to spare.
Next came the barrage of other people’s wish lists. It seemed like everyone had an Excel spreadsheet to ensure that they had an Excel-lent Xmas. But these spreadsheets seem to keep the emphasis on getting rather than giving. Sure, I’ve also been getting corresponding requests for me to send out my own wish list. But amid all of this thoroughness and organization, it feels like we’ve forgotten to create a column to capture the joy of Christmas. And while our systematized approach may ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, the magic of Christmas seems to have vanished like Playskool "Let's Rock Elmo" dolls at Walmart on Black Friday.
As a result, December 25 is becoming more Tradin’ Day than Christmas Day. (“I’ll swap you one $20 Starbuck’s gift card for a $10 iTunes card and a bottle of Pink Sugarplum lotion from Bath & Body Works. Do we have a deal?”) And there’s a new tradition that now occurs on the morning of December 26: that’s when everyone reviews the entire Christmas transaction, taking inventory to make sure everything is accounted for. (“Hey! I found in the back of the SUV the present Shelby was supposed to give to Cousin Claire. And Taylor drew Chloe’s name, but Chloe didn’t get anything from Taylor. Call grandma and ask there’s a present left under the tree.”)
Conspicuously absent in all of this are two essential elements of the season, the elements of whimsy and surprise—not just in terms of what gift you get (the spreadsheets have killed that), but whether you get a gift at all. And pouring over spreadsheets and running from store to store doesn’t exactly put you in the frame of mind to enjoy the simple things the season has to offer, even if you still had some time and energy left over after you’ve finished all of your Christmas errands.
But it’s early yet, which means there’s still time to save Christmas. I’m not talking about performing some sort of Christmas miracle. It’s not like I want to teach the word to sing in perfect harmony or anything. After all, my kids really hate it when I sing, whether or not Buddy from Elf thinks that’s the best way to spread Christmas cheer.
What I’m talking about, rather, is something more realistic. They say change begins at home, and that’s exactly what I want to do: I want to change the Christmas culture at my house. I want to take the reins and turn my dears around. And since wish lists seem to be the preferred method of communication during the holiday season—and everyone has been asking for mine—here’s my wish list for a simple, meaningful Christmas:
Wish #1: Delete your wish list.
Lists should only cover who’s naughty and who’s nice. So, no more spreadsheets detailing exactly what you want for Christmas, complete with a link to the website that sells them—unless you want to get put on the naughty list.
Wish #2: Exchange your ideology.
Trade in your expectation to get gifts for an invitation to think only of giving instead.
Wish #3: Open a workshop.
If you want to give a gift, it has to fit meet the following specifications. It has to be an item that you (a) found, (b) already had, (c) made in under an hour, (d) bought for $10 or less, or (e) a combination of the above.
Wish #4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Don’t give homemade coupon books unless they don’t contain any fine print. You may have had better luck, but I’ve been burned by the coupon book concept one too many times. Hannah likes to issue the coupons, but doesn’t let anyone redeem them. There’s nothing more disappointing than trying to use the free back rub coupon you got for your birthday only to find there are so many conditions, stipulations and black out periods that it makes using bonus points to buy round trip tickets to Paris over Valentine’s Day seem like a piece of cake.
That’s my wish list for Christmas for this year.
But if you’re the old fashioned type and your Christmas won’t be complete without buying me a store bought gift, you can always get me a bottle of Jimmy Choo cologne and a four tier shower organizer—after all, it wouldn’t be very evolved for me to try to impose my minimalist style on you.