A holiday headache
There are plenty of reasons to like this time of the year – beautiful holiday decorations light up the area, businesses are buzzing with shoppers and everyone's mood is brightened by the spirit of the season. December is a magical snow-dusted month filled with joy and merriment, just like all those old-timey movies.
However, the Christmas season has its pitfalls. It's a rather frantic time of the year that has everyone scrambling to put up the tree, string up the lights and get the kids to play practice at church on time. Troubles abound, but there's not one holiday headache I dread more than shopping.
I guess I exemplify the stereotypical American male. I put it off until the last minute, and often find myself wandering the aisles of a huge department store scratching my head 48 hours before the big day. It's a tried and true method I've used for years, but it has its obvious flaws.
First and foremost, my last minute shopping leaves me with very few options. The good stuff has been picked over already once I get to the store, and all the hot deals have long since expired. The junk that's left is far too dumb and useless to actually wrap up and give to somebody. It's painstaking to sit through someone fake a thank-you after opening a gift both you and everyone else knows is terrible.
"Oh…the first season of 'Frasier' on DVD…thanks."
I just feel like all my gifts are so impersonal. I'm rather self-conscious about it, and I always think the person is going to hate whatever it is I give them. I envy people who always give thoughtful and heartfelt presents that hit it out of the park each time. Their gifts reduce someone to tears of joy or make them jump up and down in happiness – how do they do it?!
I usually feel so overwhelmed by my gift-giving ineptitude that I settle for the lowliest gift of them all – cold hard cash. Don't get me wrong, I love getting money, but I would rather give someone a present that means something special. Giving somebody cash just seems like I'm throwing money at a problem and hoping it goes away.
"Here's 25 bucks. Go buy a case of beer or get your car's oil changed. I didn't forget to buy you a gift at all."
Giving someone money isn't all that bad, though, because it saves my bacon when it comes to yet another one of my holiday flaws: wrapping presents. I'm awful at it. Just recently, I bought my niece a Barbie for her birthday. Mind you, Barbie doesn't come in some out-of-this-world, no-way-you're-gonna-wrap-this style packaging. It's a rectangular box, and it took me 25 minutes to wrap. I wasted half my roll of paper on it, and after I was finished it looked like somebody tried to wrap it with their feet.
I better buy more bags.
I really don't know how to fix my Christmastime conundrums. I suppose I should hit the stores a bit earlier, but sometimes I just get too busy. I think I might dedicate the next two Saturdays to perusing the local shops in hopes that something might catch my eye. My niece and nephew are easy to shop for, but the rest of the family is a little more difficult. I can't just buy them an action figure or something with Minnie Mouse on it – it takes a little more thought.
It may seem like I'm more Grinch than Santa when it comes to Christmas, but I genuinely enjoy the holidays. Everyone is in a giving mood this time of the year and that's certainly the real reason for the season. Far too often do we get caught up in the commercialized nonsense of it all. It's great to get someone a special gift, but spending time with loved ones is what it's all about. That's something you can't find in a mall.
Nick Pedley is the editor of the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and Pioneer Enterprise.