I don’t want to worry you, but Christmas is a-comin’! I can tell, because the stores have had their decorations out for roughly 6 months now, so we’re probably no more than about 30 days from the big event. You’ve no doubt been cruising on autopilot since Thanksgiving, but it’s time to wipe the last bits of turkey off your chin and lurch into action so that you’re fully prepared for the wonderment of the season! The best way to start your preparations is to have a stiff drink, after which you should remind your wife that she needs to hurry up and decorate. Once that backfires, you should head outside to give her some time to cool off, making yourself useful by putting up the Christmas lights. Typically I prefer to wait until it’s around 20 degrees and raining to do that, as it helps generate holiday spirit – in fact, it’s not uncommon for children several blocks away to hear me spouting holiday spirit as I untangle the ol’ light strings and inevitably shatter several bulbs.
Once the lights are up, it’s time to assemble the tree! I say ‘assemble’ because I’m a big fan of artificial trees – there’s much less responsibility involved with those. For instance, you never have to vacuum, there’s no sap, and watering is actually frowned upon – plus you don’t have to worry about proper disposal, and you can pay once for 10-20 years of Christmas cheer! We always had artificial trees when I was growing up and, while we may have missed out on the time-honored tradition of being embarrassed by your parents while trudging across frozen Christmas tree lots outside retail shopping centers to find just the right tree, we did get to spend hours together as a family sitting on the living room floor, separating the branches into piles by their badly faded color bands, and then fluffing each one individually to ensure a full, realish looking aesthetic.
Typically, the first few rows were fluffed pretty well and then, due to loss of interest, the top branches looked more like a bad comb-over. And the tree-related fun doesn’t stop there! After the branches come the dizzying tasks of adding lights and garland, and then subsequently removing them so they can be wrapped and rewrapped several times to ensure a perfect, even distribution. This task traditionally falls on mom, as the children have long since wandered off to watch TV, irritate the dog, or stare at the wall by this point, and their father has been hiding at the bar since 9am in hopes of avoiding the process altogether. “I’ll be a lot more cheerful after a couple of beers!” is dad’s typical argument. But mom won’t be alone for long, because the children will soon return to fight over which ornaments go where, and who gets to put the star on top! So you can clearly see how artificial trees generate just as much family togetherness as the real thing, but without the fire hazard.
Once you have the lights and tree up, and your holiday Merriment Meter is nearly pegged, it’s time to get shopping – just like Jesus did back in his day. Although I’m betting most of his family and friends just got salvation every year – which is pretty much the best gift you could ever get, but isn’t much fun to unwrap, as evidenced by the following exchange from one of the very first Christmases, outlined in the book of 1 Hezzelonians, Ch 4:
Israelite: “Oh look! More salvation! Tank you, dis is great, really…”
Jesus: “It’s for eternity, you know!”
Israelite (to Jesus): “Yes, I see dat on it right here. Right vare da schticker vas on last year’s salvation.”
Israelite (quietly to wife): “Sheesh, vould it kill him to vip up some vine? Or maybe some fish sandviches? Alvays vit the salvation, Oy!”
Jesus: “Who wants manna?!”
Unfortunately, you probably don’t have the omnipotence to offer your loved ones eternal life, so it’s time for you to head to the mall and begin searching for those perfect last minute Christmas gifts, by which I mean all of them. If you’re like me, this whole Christmas thing sneaks up on you every year like a puma stalking a bunny, so you begin your shopping about a week before your family will be opening their thoughtfully chosen wiper fluid and Applebees gift cards. But don’t fret, because there are lots of wonderful things still available on Amazon that are eligible for 2-day shipping via Prime! And if you just don’t know what to get, there’s always www.somethingstore.com. This brilliant site takes all the guesswork out of the shopping experience by boiling the chore down to its most basic tenants. You send them $10, and they send you…something. It could be good, and it could be bad, but it will definitely – and this is guaranteed – be something.
If money is tight, perhaps because you ended up buying yourself a sleigh load of loot while searching for gifts for friends and family, then you’re pretty much out of luck. You could resort to homemade gifts, but the problem with a gift that comes from the heart is that the recipient often wishes they could throw it in the trash. Of course they can’t throw it away, because that could cause hurt feelings, so instead it sits in a box to be rediscovered every year, reminding them of your cheapness. You’re probably better off returning the new Bluetooth-potato-peeler you got such a good deal on, and buying mom that vase she wanted instead, if only to avoid getting a reputation as a terrible gift-giver and suffering years of passive-aggressive retaliation from the highest earners in your gift-giving circle.
So now your tree is up, your lights are lit, and your presents are bought – you’re finally done, right? WRONG! Only some sort of third-world Christmas RUBE would’ve answered ‘yes’ to that question – what are you going to do, just HAND your gifts to your family and friends with no wrapping paper? You might as well just light the tree on fire and go kick Santa in the jingle bells. You’re not even CLOSE to being ready for Christmas until you’ve thoughtfully covered every one of those gifts in festive Yuletide paper! And you don’t want to wait until the last minute, because this is a process that – if not done correctly – could destroy even the greatest of gifts. Imagine, for instance, that your spouse rushed to the driveway on Christmas morning to find her brand new luxury vehicle decorated with only a standard sized bow instead of the giant ones they always show in the commercials. The gut-wrenching heartbreak would be palpable! She would no doubt stomp back to the master bedroom in tears of righteous indignation, ordering the servants to slam the doors angrily behind her, and leaving you to sleep in the guest house – or worse – with the help! No pressure. But don’t worry, if you’re intimidated by wrapping presents, you’re not alone; a large portion of the population – regular, everyday people who otherwise seem perfectly competent – has trouble with this critical task. If you are in possession of a Y-chromosome, you are probably in that group. This is why – to avoid looking like a buffoon – I recommend either paying the neighbor lady to wrap your gifts for you, or loading up on festive gift bags and newspaper. Haha! I’m kidding, of course – you can’t wrap gifts with newspaper! Where would you find one anymore? Instead you’ll need to head back to the store to purchase colorful and overpriced tissue paper – the more expensive, the better. And this must be strategically tucked into the bag around your gift, simply wadding it like a Neanderthal crumpling toilet paper will not due, especially if the recipient is a woman.
Only once you’ve accomplished all of these things are you truly ready for Christmas, which –remember – is about togetherness and love and Jesus. And even though you’ve no doubt used his name rather frequently during all your preparations, it’s probably a good time to gather your family together and officially recognize that the reason we go to so much trouble is that we’re still happy about all that salvation. Maybe even make some fish sandwiches.