A couple of years ago, in the blog post “The Christmas Trees of August”, I poked fun at the retail sector and how stores seem to be putting out seasonal merchandise earlier and earlier each year.
It is funny how times change.
Here we are, two short years later, and I am finding myself seriously venturing out to Christmas shop earlier and earlier with each passing year.
At the best of times throughout the year, I rarely shop on Saturday afternoons. But in the last weeks approaching Christmas, I also avoid shopping on Saturday mornings as the stores and parking lots get far too busy for me. Then a week later, I will drop Sunday as a possible shopping day. Then a week later, Friday evenings are off the list. A week after that, Thursday evenings are eliminated.
When I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to get my shopping done, there are only so many hours to accomplish that.
Then add to the mix the wildcard of snowstorms or freezing rain that can strike at any moment. If they do, some of those prime shopping days can unexpectedly disappear.
What does one do in light of this weird Christmas shopping algorithm?… I started shopping earlier.
I seem to have a romantic notion of Christmas shopping being a fun activity. I love driving around on a day when light snow is gently falling. I love the Christmas music or carolers in the background while finding the perfect gift here, finding another there, and then breaking for a peppermint hot chocolate. I love walking by Santa’s mall display to hear his unique baritone “Ho ho ho” and watching the little kids in their rite of passage, nervously waiting for their turn to speak to the man himself. And I love the sense of satisfaction of heading home with a few bags of goodies for friends and loved ones.
I can deal with line-ups, I can deal with crowds, I can deal with waiting and I can even deal with the occasional surprise of a store clerk saying, “I’m sorry, we’re sold out” and having to truck around to other stores to look for the perfect gift that would warm the cockles of someone’s heart.
But my romantic vision of Christmas shopping never included WWE-style smack downs in the parking lot or episodes of “Real Housewives” playing out at the cash register.
I just do not seem to be able to deal well anymore with the crying, the whining, the screaming and the tantrums… and that’s from the adults!
Oh how I wish life were like an episode of Downton Abbey where good manners prevailed and raising one’s voice was seen as lacking in decorum and sophistication.
Two years ago, as I licked my wounds from getting run into by a shopping cart, smacked in the head by a bag of stocking stuffers that felt like rocks and bumped into by a distracted pedestrian who was exchanging text messages with the North Pole, I wondered why I was doing this and what went wrong with my idyllic vision of Christmas shopping.
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I am getting more sensitive with age, but I don’t find it as easy to shake off the stress. I sometimes feel like a paper towel, absorbing and carrying the mess… until the paper towel breaks. OK, maybe that’s not a great analogy, but you get the idea. My Teflon coating isn’t what is used to be.
It is a draining experience. Why put myself through it if I don’t feel at my best afterward? And it’s not like I can’t see December 25 approaching. I can plan and work around it to not put myself in that position. And frankly, I’m OK with that and accepting that reality.
I would rather save my energy for sharing in the good times and traditions with family, friends and colleagues, being relaxed and in the moment, rather than recuperating from stressful trips to the mall, braving the crowds like a gladiator.
By shopping earlier this year, I noticed that my stress level decreased with every gift acquired before December 1st. Even if I have just a handful of gifts left to buy on December 1, I can tackle those as quickly and efficiently as I can by zipping in and out of stores on whatever remaining days of the week are left.
I feel much safer at home on a snowy Saturday afternoon, on the couch, with the cat, reading a good book, watching a Christmas movie, listening to holiday tunes, sipping my egg nog and knowing Santa’s job is already done.
That being the case, my romantic vision had to change accordingly, even if it meant starting my Christmas shopping in shorts and a T-shirt on record breaking hot summer days, or on crisp fall days when the leaves are just starting to change. If this is the adjustment I have to make to maintain the joy (and sanity) of gift-giving, I am more than happy to do it.
Friends, if your schedule doesn’t allow you the luxury of shopping early or you enjoy the adrenaline rush of shopping in crowded malls, you have my deepest admiration and respect.
But along the way please don’t forget to remember the spirit of the season, don’t forget to keep your cool, don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to smile, and don’t forget to thank the store clerks who provide great customer service at a very stressful time.
And if you can’t, I’ll see you in the stores next September!
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,