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Spirited

Yesterday at work, while I was braving our godawful restrooms, I overheard two women talking about the holidays.  I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but acoustics carry in that place and they were hardly making an effort to keep their voices to a dull roar.  As I squeezed past one of the women to get to the sink, she said to her friend “I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit this year.  I’m so lost on what to get my daughter.  I’m just going to give her $200 on Christmas morning and she can do whatever she wants with it.”  To my surprise, her friend thought this was a fantastic idea, and the pair left me in peace to finish scrubbing my hands clean.

imagesI already went on a short rant about gift giving last week, so I’ll spare you a recap.  I will say that simply handing over some cash to a relative, especially a close relative like your child, is hardly the way to get into the holiday spirit if you’re not feeling it this time around.  Instead of giving up and relying on the bare minimum to get you by, why not try…..

Saying Merry Christmas to more people, strangers or friends.  It’s simple, easy, and doing it with a smile almost forces you to get in good spirits about the upcoming holiday.  Not enough people say “Merry Christmas” anymore; I guarantee you’ll thrill the anti-Happy Holidays crowd, and in turn make yourself happier.

Don’t overspend/stress about gifts.  This is advice I need to take myself, as I’m almost always stressing about getting enough gifts for everyone.  Putting too much emphasis on how much you spend and/or how many things you get for each person in your life is a surefire way to murder your spirit.  If a friend or family member is going to be offended because you didn’t spend enough or get them enough, they aren’t worth any gifts at all.

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Stay away from the crowds!  Do your grocery shopping during odd hours, DO NOT GO TO THE MALL, avoid rush hour as much as you possibly can, and try out smaller shops instead of braving the pit of hell that is Walmart.  Nothing can get you angrier than being stuck behind the gaggle of old ladies while you’re just trying to pick up some eggs and a gift card.  Avoidance will make you happier, regardless of the time of year.

Scatter decorations so you’re always around something Christmas related.  Put a candy cane in your car, get a small wreath or bows for your office, and go to town at home.  Do whatever is comfortable for you and fits your personal style.  I can’t help but be in a good mood when I’m home and we flip the lights on, illuminating our tree.  It always serves as a personal reminder of how magical this season can be.

Nog it up.  Egg nog tends to magically appear around Thanksgiving and then vanish into the new year as mysteriously as it arrived.  Even when it’s only my husband drinking it, just seeing it on the table and glimpsing the bottle in the fridge makes me feel spirited and excited about Christmas.  There are endless choices for brand, flavor, plenty that come with alcohol already mixed in, and countless recipes online.

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Go to church.  This one doesn’t work for me anymore, but I can recall many times in my past where a few hours with youth group, doing secret angel gift exchanges and spending time together was one of my favorite pastimes during the month of December.  Going to mass is also a great reminder about why we celebrate Christmas (for you religious folk).

Volunteer.  When I was living in Connecticut, I did a lot of volunteer work at a home for disabled men, the elderly, at a soup kitchen/homeless shelter, and a few other places around my city.  Doing so not only makes you more appreciative, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you were able to help someone and brighten their day, even if it was only for a few moments.

Turn on some music.  Holiday music that you enjoy, that is, as the music pumped through speakers in stores can have the exact opposite effect on your mood.  The rock version of Mr. Grinch always puts a smile on my face.  And then there is this.  I dare you to not smile.

Make some cookies!  If you have kids, make sure they are heavily involved.  If not, bake some up for yourself and your favorite people.  Decorate with icing, get fun cookie cutters, and have fun with it.  If you’re more skilled than I, go for a cake, a pie, or whatever other dessert you associate with the holiday season.

Do an early gift exchange.  My husband and I exchange one gift on Christmas Eve, which is a pretty common tradition.  But why not exchange a gift now?  Giving and receiving early will hype you up for Christmas morning by giving you a little sneak peek of what is coming.  It’s always fun for me to try to choose a great gift for my husband to open early as well (although sometimes challenging when it’s wrapped and I can’t quite remember what it is).

Don’t be a loner!  If you’re lucky enough to have family close by, spend time with them.  If not, get together with friends.  If that isn’t an option, volunteer work as referenced earlier will put you in close contact with others.  Or go shopping and make it a point to smile at a stranger.  Being alone is the worst way to get into the spirit, so surround yourself with people, spread some joy, and have a Merry Christmas!

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About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on December 19, 2013, in Crazy People, Family, Life, Party! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m happy that I was able to complete 95% of my shopping online this year. Unfortunately the one time that I had to go to the mall turned into a disaster. I felt as though I had entered Dante’s Inferno. I fought crowds, endured long register lines, and waited in huge traffic jams both going into and exiting from the mall. To add to the misery, I never found what I had come there for. If I have to do it again next year, I’ll first call the store to see if the item is in, ask the clerk to hold it for me, go during an off time, and strategically plan the best entrance and escape routes.

  2. Cash gift? Lame. Why doesn’t she just “treat” her daughter to a shopping trip. I never know what to buy my mom, so I take her to her favorite stores and buy new shoes, a coat, whatever she picks out. We have lunch together, just her and I, and it’s a nice day together as mom and son. I might get her a few trifles to open on Christmas, but spending the day with her and being able to buy her what she wants is a reward for me as much as it is for her, because I feel good knowing that all my hard work put me in a place where I can take my mom out, someone who took care of me for so many years, and take care of her instead.

    Saying Merry Christmas – I took my Dad out two days ago for what I call a “holiday bar.” It’s when a local bar is all decorated for Christmas, and most of the patrons are visiting family and friends, so many non-locals, and the mood and spirit of the bar are just….Christmasy. Christmas music is playing, everyone is smiling and laughing and having fun. I love holiday bars. My wife invited me to one yesterday for lunch. We had a great time. Needless to say, I’ve been lit for 72 hours now….lol. Anyway, when I was with my Dad, two complete strangers next to us were asking how we liked the beers we ordered, short convo but friendly, and at the end, the one guy, with really rosy cheeks and a big smile held up his beer just a little bit and said, “Merry Christmas guys.” I had to smile. And I felt good from him saying it. So simple, but such a great idea.

    Love the decoration scatter idea. I do the same with Christmas music. I have it available on my phone, TV, etc… so I can just fire it up.

    Although agnostic, I have found my way inside a church from time to time. Weddings, funerals, and when I was younger – Confirmations (not mine of course). I love churches for their architecture, their beauty and they demand at times serious self-reflection. But twice now I have happened to be in a church while I Christmas Choir was singing, and I must say, it was deeply moving. I don’t care that many of our favorite Christmas songs have religious meanings, and I believe that is the beauty of Libertarianism. I can love those songs because they are my tradition, regardless of their meaning. I can enjoy them, and feel good listening to them, because I do not judge what they say, or mean, or their source. I grew up with them, just like I grew up saying Merry CHRISTmas.

    You lived in CT? N, S, E, or W?

    Cookies – that is today’s event. Have you seen the new cookies at the grocery store that have pictures of Santa and trees “painted” on them? They look like photographs. Incredible detail. I told everyone that I painstakingly painted each image on each cookie….lol.

    I want to add one more to your post…

    TAKE TIME OFF.

    So many people I know, mostly from X Gen, LOVE to work right up to Christmas, and get right back on the grinder 24 hours later. I remember when I was young, it was cool to do that. To say you worked a 60 hour week, etc… but nowadays, that’s just lame. Nobody’s company cares about anyone that much for any of that to matter. If there is a specific strategic reason to do that, for a specific short term goal with a clearly defined benefit you will reap from doing so, then sure, that is the correct political move…but if someone is working just to work to say they are working so much and draw the sympathy of others, they need to not. I took EXTRA time off this year, and I am thinking of taking a couple more days off on the backend, and I am having a great time. I am off enough to unplug, to unwind, to put up more lights, to bake cookies, to enjoy my fireplace, to get my Christmas light timers finally working right, to play with my daughter (she fell asleep on me twice yesterday
    watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas). Take…time….off.

    • When I was in CT, I lived in South Windsor and Manchester 🙂
      I’ll be off of work on Dec 23rd, 25th (obviously!) and Jan 1 – 3rd off. My husband is off for the next two weeks, the lucky bastard.

      • South Windsor, I believe our football team played your football team. That is to say, SW was not far away. I am glad you have time off. Two weeks for your husband? Manufacturing industry? You usually don’t see that much time off unless a factory is closing down for the holidays. When I worked for my equivalent of Fezziwig’s, everyone was off for two weeks except the Accounting Department and unfortunately my Mr. Fezziwig, while a genius I owe my career too, felt it “wasn’t fair to pick a man’s pocket every 25th of December” (not really, we had a calendar year end and so such is life in Accounting in such companies). So, we Cratchet’s continued to work, and since everyone was gone, the heat was off. It was very Dickens. Haha.

  3. Since you brought up eggnog, I thought I’d share a recipe for it that’s been passed down through several generations of my family:

    Beat separately yolks and whites of 6 eggs (you may want to use pasteurized eggs). Add 1/2 cup of sugar to yolks while beating. Beat whites very stiff with an electric hand mixer on high speed (use the type of mixer with 2 beaters; hand blenders won’t beat sufficiently). Once they’re very stiff (be patient as this can take around 5 minutes), add 1/4 cup of sugar while still beating them. Briskly stir (or use a hand blender) into the egg yolks 1 pint of medium whipping cream, 1 pint of whole milk, 1 pint of bourbon whiskey and 2 ounces of dark Jamaican rum (and/or 2 ounces of Capt. Morgan rum if you’d prefer). Fold in the beaten egg whites. Serve very cold with fresh grated nutmeg.

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