It was only a few weeks ago, mid-August, when I saw the beautifully-decorated faux Christmas trees in my local Sam’s Club. I was excited!
I soon realized, however, that not everyone shared my feelings. My heart sank as I heard a male voice at the end of the aisle loudly parroting an old refrain: “These greedy merchants! They put out Christmas decorations earlier every year!”
Really? Are the merchants greedy—or practical? I thought of my below comments on this subject in my eBook, Friendship—When It’s Easy and When It’s Not. In the chapter entitled “Paved with What?” I wrote about procrastination, how we put off doing thoughtful things which does not make a good friend—and how this also includes Christmas shopping.
All Is Calm!
You may not know me, but I am your friend—especially at Christmas time. As you shop, I give you my parking spaces, my lane on the freeway, my space in the mall, my place in line at the check-out counters, and my spot in the crowded post office line.
If you are a clerk, you won’t have to answer my questions, or wait as I fumble through my purse for my credit cards or check book. Nor will you have to endure my snide remarks about the added cost of gift-wrapping in light of what I’ve just spent in your store.
If you are a mail carrier you will not have the added weight of my late Christmas cards and gifts.
Why? Not because I’m a Scrooge and don’t believe in the Spirit of Christmas, but because all my gifts will be wrapped and under the tree, or in the mail, by the end of November.
Thanksgiving weekend traditionally finds the Chappell Christmas tree standing in its place, decorated in all its splendor with every Christmas gift wrapped or gift-bagged beneath it.
All Christmas decorations, inside and outside, are ready to shine brightly the Sunday night following Thanksgiving. I begin addressing Christmas cards early so they can be in the mail no later than December 1st.
I’m crazy, you say? No, just selfish. Because I have all of these Christmas chores done early, I have the entire season, three weeks plus, to enjoy and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. I relax and listen to beautiful Christmas music while making my special batches of Christmas candies . . .
I use the extra time to remember all those lovely friends who did kind things for me during the year, and make certain they receive a container of my chocolate nut clusters and caramel-nut popcorn candies . . . (since a good friend shares recipes, two of these recipes are included at the end of this chapter in my eBook)
Over 40 years ago, when I first began to fight the habit of P/U (procrastination/unpreparedness) I started with the after-Christmas sales. One January I bought a lovely hand-beaded sweater for my daughter-in-law for half price. (The original price was over $100.) . . .
I rearranged my linen closet and have one special top shelf just for Christmas gifts. For me there is something magical about having that first Christmas present already purchased, sitting there on the shelf, just waiting for others to join it.
This presented a challenge when our children were young since their want list changed with each new Christmas toy commercial. Yet I was able to do 98% of their shopping earlier than I normally did. I also selected the very highest shelf in our house (and garage) to store their presents.
But I’m not in the Mood!
At first it was difficult for me to shop early for I had been programmed to shop while hearing Christmas music. So I played Christmas records on my stereo at home and kept a Christmas CD in my car. While waiting at red lights, however, I admit I often received strange looks from pedestrians and other drivers when they heard Christmas carols coming from my car in mid-July.
The first year I started my Christmas shopping early was the hardest. It took great discipline to not give the gifts before Christmas, or succumb to the temptation to change my mind, return the gifts, and get something else. Yet each year it became easier until now I am a hardened veteran. Nobody gets a gift from me before Christmas unless they provide a written note from their doctor stating they have a terminal illness.
I record my purchases on a lined 3×5 index card. I draw columns on it, add the name of the person at the top of each column and as I buy the gifts I write down the item and cost (to help me not go over my limit). I keep these cards in my “Christmas Gift” folder (it’s easy to review what I have given to whom through the years). I keep a specially marked envelope for all Christmas receipts in the same folder. This is important for many stores mark down their items immediately after Christmas and without the appropriate receipt the credit or refund may be much less than what was actually paid for it, because they always refund the sales price. (Not all of my gifts are sales items )
One of my biggest problems in those early years was finding Christmas wrapping paper before December. (Retailers are making it much easier these days for early shoppers)Years ago I bought wrapping paper at post-Christmas sales which made it possible to do early wrapping for the following Christmas and save money in the process.
It is unfortunate that the merchants are accused by some P/U shoppers of making Christmas “too commercialized.” Just this past Christmas I listened to two male radio talk show hosts lambaste local merchants because they put out their Christmas displays before Thanksgiving. That’s easy for them to say, I thought in irritation. They probably don’t do any of the serious Christmas shopping for their family. I’ll bet they just dash out at the last minute and grab something for their wife or girlfriend without any serious thought.
I find it completely illogical to expect merchants to wait until after Thanksgiving to display Christmas decorations—that only encourages the P/U practice. It is unreasonable to expect everyone in this country to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to begin their Christmas shopping. How can anyone expect almost 310 million people all at the same time to do all of their Christmas gift shopping in only three plus weeks—and exhibit any kind of “Christmas spirit”?
Clerks are exhausted from standing on their feet long hours, dealing with wave after wave of harried, package-ladened, weary shoppers. Shoppers are equally tired and frustrated due to their inability to find what they want, the sudden drain in their checking accounts, and the sudden rise in their irritability. Clerks and shoppers alike can do nothing more than collapse when they get home, and pray that the “Reason for the Season” will give them the strength to survive it—and hopefully a few moments to reflect upon it.
If the statement is true that “success comes when opportunity and preparedness meet,” then we must make plans to become better prepared if we are to enjoy even a small measure of success at being a thoughtful friend—whether at Christmas time or throughout the year.
And if the old saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” is true, then there must be another one somewhere that says “Heaven hovers near the human heart through the kind deeds of another.”
Why not this year use the energy usually expended in cutting off the heads of the merchant messengers by doing your shopping early? You might actually be in the mood to enjoy the true Spirit of Christmas instead of longing for the season to be over. Try it—you might like it.
Note: Italicized portion is taken from my eBook, Friendship—When It’s Easy and When It’s Not.