By MICHELE NIESEN
I’m not cynical about the holidays. I swear. I just don’t do them.
One good thing about being a freelance writer, chef, chicken wrangler and dog biscuit maker is that I don’t have to be on everyone else’s schedule. The media blitz of “doorbusting” and 4 a.m. shopping calls after Thanksgiving has to be the biggest letdown of what could be a really loving holiday. But I can’t blame Macy’s. They’re just trying to move all that crap. That we don’t need. And can’t afford.
But even without the pull of commerce tugging at last year’s sweater neck, I just don’t get on the holiday obligation sleigh anymore. Since 1986 at last count. Maybe too many years working in hospitality got me used to the idea of not being available, I dunno. More than likely it was too many unmet expectations, family tension or other letdowns that seem louder and more jagged during December. I just won’t put myself through it anymore. Give me one good reason why. I listen to some of my normally sane friends complain about going through the motions of driving around looking for gifts, dragging themselves from one clogged parking lot to another looking for something that might suit a recipient. “I’ve included the receipt so you can have one more thing to do in January. Return this thingie I got you under duress. Feliz Navidad!”
Here’s the thing. Don’t get me anything. If I need something I’ll drive on down to the store and buy it. On a stress-free Wednesday afternoon in March. I like twinkle lights and reindeer bells on dog collars too. But Christmas, whether you’re religious or not, needs to stop being about STUFF. It’s about slowing down. Enjoying bundling up with eggnog (hopefully with bourbon) and making fires and seeing folks who maybe don’t have time to gather. But really? We should gather and enjoy each other and break bread more often. Maybe when traffic isn’t so bad.
This year I made bundled “trees” of crepe myrtle branches wrapped with lights and ornaments crafted from magnolia leaves (it pays to date a tree surgeon), and it flanks the entrance to the house to welcome guests for potluck meals. Whether that will happen Dec. 24 or Dec. 15 doesn’t matter. No pressure. The other 11 months of the year are tricky enough.