Tonawanda News

November 21, 2013

KEPPELER: It's beginning to look a lot like ...

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I had a stunner of a realization Wednesday, and because I needed to write a column anyway, now I’m sharing it with you:

Christmas is less than five weeks away.

Not so much time, really, is it? A mere 34 days. And so much to do in that meager span: Shopping, decorating, cooking, baking, visiting, etc. And that’s around and in between the usual stuff of our daily lives, like work and family and, well, sleep. It’s enough to make even the most laid-back of holiday shoppers a bit concerned.

I’m generally not one to complain much about Christmas creep — I like the holiday season, and I have no problem admitting that — but it even got to me this year. When I see visits from Santa in the Today & Tomorrow listings two days after Halloween, even I start getting a little grumpy. Several radio stations have even made it onto my “banned” list at least until next Friday.

And yet if you don’t start early, it’s too easy to get overwhelmed. I usually wind up making a number of gifts, and without an early start, those last few days before the holiday are anything but festive. And I’m a huge advocate of getting Christmas shopping, at least for my kids, done early, even if it means I’m eavesdropping on all successive conversations with Santa, just in case they come up with something that they absolutely NEED the jolly ol’ fella to bring them. (Something realistic, anyway. It’s been firmly established that Santa has limits in this household, and never you mind what the other kids at school are telling you.)

So what’s a fan of Christmas to do?

I can only speak for myself, but the rules I’ve established thus are as follows:

ONE: Shop early. I don’t care how annoying sales billed as Christmas events in early November are. The earlier you get your Christmas shopping — to whatever scale you like — done, the more you can focus on what’s really cool about the holiday. And it’s not pushing through crowds of other shoppers at that big box store on Dec. 24. 

(Unless you enjoy that kind of thing. See rule 1A: Only do the whole Black Friday thing because you want to, not in the faint hope of scoring that rare dohickey at the super-discounted rate for Junior. That way lies madness. I’ve been shopping several times early on the so-called Black Friday, scored some deals and had a ball — but that was hand-in-hand with no absolute must-haves, an accompanying friend and a great deal of humor involved.)

TWO: Don’t skip Thanksgiving.

Poor holiday. When did it become the briefest stopping point in the headlong rush from Halloween to Christmas? Maybe it’s because its decorations, if they exist at all, tend toward the historical and boring, it doesn’t even have a carol to its name and only the grocery stores care if shoppers are going to blow big bucks on the day. (If Thanksgiving presents were in vogue, I bet we’d have Turkey Day carols pretty darned quick)

But I like the day. I like cooking the traditional (or not-so-traditional ... I made jambalaya one holiday) meal. I like seeing my family. I like watching whatever football game is on. I like relaxing with a glass of wine after all the guests have gone home. (You won’t find me out shopping that night, even if I deign to approach a store the day after.)

Christmas and its festivities can have their due, but I’ll devote one low-key day to appreciating what I have before I go acquiring more, thank you very much.

THREE: Do the stuff. You know, the stuff. 

It varies for everyone, but every person or family has “the stuff.” Maybe they’re traditions handed down for generations. Maybe it’s a Christmas church service or a completely secular observance of the season. Maybe it’s a decoration that must go up with much fanfare every year. Maybe it’s an event you always attend. (Like my family and the Santa on the Carrousel affair at the Herschell Carrousel Museum.) Maybe it’s on the lead-up to the holiday, or the day itself. Maybe it’s an immense fancy dinner or Chinese food on the couch. Maybe it’s a donation to a charity, a walk to look at Christmas lights, the most sorry-looking of Christmas trees, a letter written to Santa with your kids. Whatever. 

That’s the stuff that makes it special. So do it.

And have a good Thanksgiving ... and happy holidays.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.