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Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Christmas Tradition Upgrade

I want to thank everyone who helped the economy by following tradition and shopping on Black Friday, especially those of you who did not trample anyone in the process. That had pretty much been a joke until this year when a young man was killed by a stampede of bargain hunters at a Wal-Mart store in New York.

My one and only experience of Black Friday shopping occurred probably thirty years ago. I let my sister-in-law talk me into standing outside K-Mart waiting for the doors to unlock. I felt suffocated by the crowd when we all crammed through the doors. Thank goodness no one stood in the path.

Inside the store, people grabbed and slam dunked merchandise into their shopping carts. I was pushed and shoved aside while frantic Christmas shoppers jerked merchandise out of my hands. Finally, I walked out of the store without buying anything. To me, this was the ugly side of Christmas and only verified Jim’s mantra, “Christmas is too commercialized, and no one remembers what it’s all about.” The birth of Christ was less important than department store Santas.

Jim was called “Scrooge” and “Grinch” because of his lack of enthusiasm for presents. It was up to me to purchase all the gifts because he wanted no part of it. Our anniversary is five days before Christmas and Jim always wanted to exchange our gifts on that day, but I always held back a few “Christmas presents.” We married young and I had a lot of growing up to do before I finally admitted that Christmas had become a time of pressure for me and lacking in the “Merry” department.

From the time our kids were small, we always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. After they were grown, we began to limit our gift giving to one small gift. Men bring a gift for a man, and women bring a gift for a woman. The first year we had the gift exchange, my youngest son said, “This is it, Mom. Do not buy anything else!” From that moment, I no longer had to worry about size or taste, want or need for any of the adults in the family.

Then the grandkids were born. Soon we were back to buying loads of presents. Even Jim got involved in the search for toys to make their eyes light up. Have you noticed how hard it is to buy for kids, especially when they get older? The presents start getting more expensive and the kids more particular. You begin to think you are throwing money at gifts that just get pushed to the back of the play room.

A few years back, I begin to notice I was spending more and more money for fewer presents and didn’t always feel good about my selections. Then, I came up with an idea. I began to buy my grandkids Certificates of Deposit for their education. I still get them other gifts, but I don’t feel like I have to buy them a “big” gift. The big gift is something they won’t outgrow or push aside after a few hours of play.

Traditionally, my kids, grandkids, and a few special people come to my house on Christmas Eve. My youngest son, Rob, makes his chili and we have a deli tray. It is a relaxed, joyful celebration. This year, Rob is on call and can’t come. He says that will be true for the next seven Christmases! After throwing a few ideas around, my oldest son, Eric, suggested we have our celebration on the Saturday before Christmas. It is such a brilliant plan that I couldn’t imagine why I hadn’t thought of it.

The CDs are bought, I have my “woman’s gift” and a few hours of leisurely shopping and I’ll be done. No Black Friday required! I feel good about Christmas, and I know Jim would have liked our tradition upgrade. After all, this year’s gift exchange will be on the thirty-ninth anniversary of a Hawaiian wedding between a college student and an Army Sp/4 on R&R from Vietnam.
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