There’s a common ailment that occurs to most people I know about this time every year. Up until now, I don’t think it had a name, but I have decided to call it “Post Holiday Stress Disorder,” or “PHSD.”
The day after Christmas I stopped in to see a friend of mine. While standing in her living room armpit deep in wrapping paper, ribbons and empty boxes, with a sink full of dirty dishes, and various members of her family crashed on the couch, she proclaimed, “I’m not going to do this next year!”
“What?” I asked. “Christmas? You’re not going to do Christmas next year?”
“Bah, Humbug,” she replied.
Heck, even the dogs looked exhausted.
Our local Trader Joe’s has one of those parking lots that is marginal for the size of the store. Unless you get there really early in the day, you’re circling and waiting to find a spot. A week or so before Christmas one of the checkers told us two patrons had an altercation in the lot. One of them ended up biting off the other’s pinky finger. I’m as competitive as the next guy, but I think a pinky is a pretty steep price to pay for a parking spot!
Lisa asked me the other day if Christmas had always been this stressful or if she was just noticing it now that she is an “adult.” I had to think about that one for a bit. I do think it gets a little bit worse every year. My brother, who despises the commercialism of Christmas told his daughter recently that last year’s Christmas season almost made him “suicidal.” Wow. We are having so much fun we want to kill ourselves.
A bit of reflection led me to the conclusion this whole gift-giving/receiving gig must have grown out of the idea of the three wise men bringing gifts to the Christ Child. How did we get from this simple story to the craziness we now refer to as “Christmas?” Many people who “celebrate” the holiday are aethiests and don’t even include any aspect of a higher power in their belief system, let alone the Christian religion. And even many of the Christians I know get so caught up in the commercial aspects of the holiday, somehow the origins get lost in the shuffle.
The stock market often experiences something known as a “Santa Claus Rally,” and the end of year shopping season has to be good, or a merchant might be filing for bankruptcy in January. Sheesh. No wonder we are so bombarded with ads.
When I was a kid, my “best” friend was a Jehovah’s Witness. I used to feel sorry for her because they didn’t believe in exchanging gifts on Christmas. On the other hand, my Jewish friends had not one but eight days of gifts for their Hanukkah celebration.
Then there is the whole Santa Claus myth. Yesterday I found some statistics on the “Science of Santa.” There are approximately 2.5 billion children under the age of 18. According to this article, the jolly elf has to travel 320 million miles in just 32 hours to deliver 850,000 tons of toys to over 900 million destinations. In order to accomplish this feat, he and the proverbial reindeer would have to be traveling at 10 million miles per hour.
Tyler, at six, is the perfect “Santa” age. Christmas morning, Lisa and Grant almost slipped up in front of him when the remote-controlled boat Santa brought stopped working, and Grant, not thinking, asked Lisa where she got it, right in front of Tyler. Before she could think about it, she blurted, “Amazon.”
In panic, all eyes immediately scanned to Tyler to see if this short conversation would represent the end of Santa for Tyler. Fortunately, we noted the glazed look of a fudge coma. After staring into space for two heartbeats, he ran off to find more fudge, oblivious to the knowledge that Santa shops at Amazon.
I remember when I first found out that Santa was a myth. I cornered my Mom in the kitchen a few days after Christmas and asked her if Santa was real.
She said, “Who told you he isn’t?”
“Patti Campbell,” I replied.
“Patti Campbell has a big mouth,” was all she said before going back to washing dishes.
No Virginia, there really is not a Santa.
At the end of the day, I think we would all benefit from taking a step back from the craziness to give gratitude for those things are are truly important. Once in awhile I go through the exercise of thinking about what I would grab if the house was on fire and I only had sixty seconds to choose one thing before I escaped. I assure you that all the “stuff” we think is so important would be pretty far down on the list. As long as those I loved escaped, I really couldn’t care less about everything else. The kids would be first, followed by Tucker. Everything else—let it burn!
I’m forever grateful to the important lessons I learned from my Dad as a kid. I bent metal more than once while learning to drive, and returned home in tears and fearful of repercussions. The first thing he would always ask is, “Are you okay?” Then he would go on to assure me that the car could be replaced, but I couldn’t.
Twenty-twelve will be an interesting year. I can’t wait to see where we are next year at this time. My New Year’s resolution is to live this year as if it is my last so that I don’t take one precious moment for granted.
I hope this finds all of you happy, well and surrounded by those you love. Happy New Year!