Holiday Slippage

a-charlie-brown-christmasI have a confession to make. For much of my life, I was a Christmas Eve shopper. Not because I procrastinated or because I was a Scrooge, but because money was paycheck-to-paycheck, and only that last check before the holiday allowed me to buy presents. Christmas isn’t cheap, and other extra things had to come out of those prior checks—extra food supplies like flour and chocolate chips, a Christmas tree, gifts for work parties.

Every spare penny was already earmarked for something.

I was fast at it. By the time I got to the mall on Christmas Eve, I knew what I needed to buy. I’d get it done in record time, then be up until midnight or two in the morning wrapping everything.

As I grew older, the habit stuck, even when I had the money to shop earlier. A year finally came when I’d finished my shopping the day before Christmas Eve, and I was proud. Each year I pushed it back a little farther. This year, I finished all my shopping weeks before Christmas.

Because I couldn’t afford Christmas until the last minute for so many years, I grew to resent the happy people with their cheerful faces who always asked “Ready for Christmas?” And because the world is so strange and run by commercialism and advertisers, that question comes earlier every year.

I still resent the question. I resent the radio stations playing holiday music in October. I resent the decorations that push Halloween into a tiny corner of the stores, plastic jack-o-lanterns shuddering in fear of the giant blowup Santa across the aisle. I resent Thanksgiving being a blip on the calendar, a marker of how much longer we all have before everything must be done.

And so, even now that money is not a factor, I look the other way for as long as I can. No Christmas music is allowed in my house until Santa appears at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I refuse to shop, decorate, or bake before then.

But then you know what happens? Time slips away. I have to finish a short story, a blog post, a birthday celebration, a trip to the vet. I have a list. I get the decorations up and the shopping done, but they’re tasks just like everything else on my to-do list.

I stop for a breath, look up at the calendar, and realize Christmas is less than two weeks away. I feel cheated, somehow. I was so busy ignoring the holiday until it was “the right time,” that I didn’t get my fair share of festivities.

Next year, don’t let the season slip past you. Celebrate it every minute you can grab. Look at Christmas lights. Sing carols. Bake cookies. Hug each other. Be Merry.

And stay out of the mall on Christmas Eve.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

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