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It is New Year’s Eve…the end of a chapter, and the opening of a sparkling new one full of promise.  It is funny, less than a week since Christmas Day, but still Christmas seems so long ago, and yet so far way…

I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to take forever to get here, but then it seems to be over in a flash.  As I am me, thankfully a flash is about allnow-is-the-time-to-panic-one-shopping-day-left-till-christmas-panic-ea6ed I take to prepare for Christmas.  Unlike my lovely bride – who thinks Christmas thoughts every day, seeing gifts and stocking stuffers in every store even in the middle of July – Christmas for me does not really kick into gear until the 19th or 20th of December.  I will admit, like most, that I have several pangs of “Gee, I guess I should start shopping soon…”, but as I have always said, there is no motivator like sheer panic to get you through the shops and malls.  Anyway,  I am fond of the panicked calls from the VISA people as I leave bits of molten plastic all over the stores getting a year’s worth of presents in one afternoon.

“Yes, I did visit Hipsters’R’Us and Generic Grandparents’ Gift Shop and Ridiculously Priced Jewellers and Stupid Calendar Kiosk and the Overpowering Smelly Soaps and Fragrances Store and Gangsta Ball Caps and Hockey Jerseys Store and finally the More Electronic Gadgets than You’ll ever need in your Life Boutique (with no payments until January 2016) in the last half hour.  Thanks for checking, though”.

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Christmas Shopping is not complete without adding the degree of uncertainty, the thrill of waiting for the much hoped for “Transaction Approved” signal on the handheld remote pay-thingy at the cashier.   Christmas VISA Roulette.

The Wild Geese Half SheetThis year, the physical search and destroy of shopping started late…but it was executed with surgical precision as prior to launch I developed a plan with several options and branches and sequels. Courtesy of the interweb, gifts were researched and price compared and stock checked, locations identified, and the most expeditious route that eliminated back tracking and looping was mapped. It had all the precision of the Wild Geese.  It is funny what 33 years in the Army teaches you…I think I even gave myself orders and stood to attention when I received them.  And with this preparation, in one afternoon the shopping was 90% complete – less time than it would take to wrap all the presents that I was giving.

But there is a problem with being done early…because Christmas shopping never really stops. There is always that one person on your list that would love the gifts that appear everywhere you look.

“Oooh. Wouldn’t  insert name here love that…and this! …and those!”

Meanwhile, the “hard-to-shop-for-person” – the one who you are not quite sure about –  becomes more and more of a challenge, as the stakes are raised and equilibrium challenged with each gift that you pick up for that one relative or friend who is really just like you and would love “everything”.  And yet, the merchants have found a way to help us through that too; thank goodness for the gift card, and my perennial multi-purpose favourite – the universal gift certificate – that are adept at spackling the cracks of my retail confusion and perplexity.  Very few are unhappy with the sweet flexibility of the gift card, or better yet, good ol’ money!

I am not sure if I am alone, but Christmas seems to be a period of eager anticipation and equal amounts of pressure. Somewhere, somehow, I have developed a bit of angst over the quality of my gifts.  And by quality I do not mean the cost – there are some tremendously tacky yet expensive gifts out grinch03there for purchase.  What I really mean is the “meaningful gift”, the one that – as I wrote in a Facebook post – shows you get the other person: that you have paid attention to them, have listened to their aspirations, have observed their habits, or their hobbies, or their style, and have found the gift that respects or enhances that.  That is a tough call – especially if you are going to get the whole shooting match completed in one afternoon! But really, I think that is a self-inflicted Festivus wound, for as the Grinch said, “Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  He was, of course, referring to the gift receipt.

And after the Christmas morning bacchanalia, amidst the  gifts, and the Turtles® and the Toblerones®, and Glad® bags full of empty wrapping and ribbons and bows and tinsel, amidst the intellectual challenge of trying to remember who gave you what, or indeed remembering what it is you did get, there is that feeling of utter resignation that you will have to rearrange your rec room or kitchen or house, or your closet, or your garage to fit all the new wonderful things you received. Ahhh, first world problems!

And then after the turkey is done, the belts unbuckled, the last nog consumed and the Cracker hats put away, when the afterglow of Christmas has faded like the Ghost of Christmas Present, that signals the arrival of one of the biggest dips in the Yuletide emotional roller coaster.

You know it.

2015_WJHC_logoYep, the period between Boxing Day and the New Year’s – not Christmas exactly but funnily enough not “not-Christmas” either. This is that awkward period when we start thinking of tackling all those jobs in the “Honey-Do Jar”,  of de-jollifying the house of all the festive tchotchkes and geegogs, of getting to the gym or hitting the asphalt; but instead it is simpler and more satisfying to be hypnotised and held hostage by the sweet siren song of turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie and turkey soup, counting down the remaining days of laziness watching TV marathons or sports or movies, or going out and hoisting a few wets with friends and loved ones. All that, and if you are Canadian, rooting during that post –Christmas tradition of watching the Annual IIHF Junior World Hockey Championships – GO CANADA!

It’s that interlude where the Holiday shine weakens and starts to wear off. The time when walking the dog at night and seeing the gaily decorated houses no longer elicits happy thoughts and kindles the warm glow of Rudolph, or Frosty or the Grinch, or wassailing or mulled wine. Instead it is the start of the post-Christmas pool to pick that one house that will leave the lights twinkling the longest – well into February, March… far too long to be logical, sensible, and practical, or may I say, warranted? I am winner this year – I waited too long to put up lights, so gladly when the sheen is gone, I have no lights to take down. WIN! [Note: I offer there is a degree of flex here; giving leeway to the Gregorian Calendar, I would say that beyond Orthodox Christmas may be long to keep up the Noel display especially if there are any multi-coloured bulbs; plain white bulbs could last a bit longer as their longevity might be explained as a trendy home decor statement, not a Christmas decoration – but that might be a Martha Stewart-inspired statement!]  

honest-new-years-eve-party-posterAnd then all of a sudden Christmas is gone, and it is New Year’s Eve . Younger me would say that New year’s Eve comes with implied tasks of mandatory frivolity and fun, that it is a contrived event that forces merriment on people – but one sad New Year’s Eve doing laundry and watching the interminable New Year Eve shows with drunken “youngsters” trying hard to get their faces on TV, inspired me to do something – anything –  to close out the year, and ring in the new one. But now on my 32nd New Year in which I can consume alcohol  – legally that is – I have come to the conclusion that I am not a purveyor of the fancy place or party that requires great effort and will end with the wholly foreseeable, totally preventable, and sadly interminable hours-long wait for the scarce taxi-cabs that are directed across the  city by smoky-throated and irate dispatchers like crazed Wham-O® Super Balls®.

I’d rather be with friends, laughing loudly, eating too much, and perhaps matching that with good drink. And that is just what I will do.

I will send out the old and bring in the new with some of the people who mean the most to me. We will reminisce on the year it has been, on the year that will come, and most of all we will enjoy being together, in what is the true spirit of the Christmas Holiday season.

And as for you, I hope that is how you will spend you New Year’s Eve – either over a casual glass of wine at home, or all dolled up in a fancy-schmancy place. I hope in 2015 that more of your days are spent with those that mean the most to you, than not.

I wish you all a safe, healthy and wonderful 2015 full of good times and good people. Enjoy.

Happy-new-year-comicsLater,

ASF

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