Sunday, December 24, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up: Christmas edition 12-24-2006

I guess you might say that this is the Christmas edition of the Weekend Wrap-up. Hey, that's funny! Christmas "wrap" up - get it? Ah, never mind.

Christmas cards
I send them - mainly to people I know. But I know that I've wondered before of the purpose of this practice. We send cards to people - some of whom we may not have had contact with during the whole year, and yet we send them a card. But if you didn't send them a card and they sent one to you ... well, that makes you look bad in some form or fashion. The question is: why? If neither of us didn't care enough to contact each other during the course of the year, then why would it make any difference if one sent a card, but not the other?

And yet, we're caught in this Christmas card merry-go-round. I use up postage and a tree dies for the card and the envelope, all so that I can send a card to someone that I otherwise didn't try to contact during the year - and vice versa. It makes little sense - especially since we can always send e-cards now (which I also do). But if you sent an e-card and they went through the trouble (and postage) of sending a real card, then...

The only thing that has changed in recent years regarding my Christmas card practices is that I make sure to get a card that actually makes some sort of reference to the Nativity story rather than a card that has a generic "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings". I even go so far as to make sure that I stick a Madonna and Child stamp on the envelope. While much of what Christmas is really about seems to have slipped away in the mad shopping rush, I at least want to do my little part to remind folks as to the "reason for the season".

Christmas gifts
Ah, now here is where I try to at least make the effort to give the right kind of gift for someone. And unlike Christmas cards, if I'm given a gift by someone that I didn't get a gift for, I don't have much less guilt. I have a short list; I simply can't give gifts to everyone that I want to give gifts to, so I stick to the most immediate family. If you're not on the list of most immediate family, then hopefully I at least sent you a Christmas card or e-card. Only my nephews and niece get the kind of attention as to the perfect gift. I have the reputation as the "cool uncle" to protect, after all.

And while I'm still on the topic of gifts, I don't know why people make such a big deal over gift certificates and gift cards. The usual argument is that they're too impersonal, but I'd rather get a gift card than for someone to take a chance on getting me something that I would have to return for one reason or another. If you must get me an actual gift, be darn sure that I'll like it - otherwise just give me a gift certificate (Or cash. I ain't picky). And make sure that it's a gift certificate that I'd actually use. Make it from Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, or a department store. Those are safe picks, because I tend to shop for my stuff there.

Picks that aren't good are gift certificates for me are from "Martha Stewart" type places. I ain't that into decorating my house. Restaurant certificates are iffy. Make sure that I actually go to that restaurant. I hope it goes without saying that I wouldn't use a gift certificate from Victoria's Secret. There. Hopefully, now that I've clarified my preferences somewhat, I've triggered a mad rush of gift certificates to come my way. ;-)

Christmas decorations
I like trees that are trimmed the right way. They don't have to have an abundance of ornaments. I don't like large, gaudy ornaments, for instance. In fact, sometimes the best trees are those that aren't overdone. Lights are a must. I prefer multi-color lights - although lights of one color can look good, too. There's ways to decorate trees that can make it look inviting, and other ways that make them look cold and unapproachable.

It's a bit hard to explain, but those that are cold and unapproachable means that the decorator spent too much time making it look perfect and artsy. Trees should be inviting and pretty to look at. The family tree we put up every year has ornaments that go way back. WAY back. And we've generally added new ornaments each year, so when we put up the tree each year, we have reminders of Christmases past, plus new additions to make new memories with. Now THAT'S an inviting tree!

As for exterior lights, the same rule applies. Go for simplicity. Some people have gone way, WAY overboard with way, WAY too many lights - as well as music and a whole lot of other noise (visual and audial) that is way too distracting. I don't know how this practice of "the more the better" got started, but it needs to stop, because some exterior decorations are now simply absurd and ridiculous.

Christmas carols
Some carols I'm simply tired of - no matter who sings them. Frosty the Snowman is one of them. What's 'Christmasy' about that song anyway? No mention is made of the holiday at all. Another one that I'm tired of is Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. At least that song mentions Christmas. One that I still like listening to - although technically it's not a carol - is the piano instrumental often referred to as the theme from "Peanuts", but it's actually titled "Linus and Lucy". I also like the carol done by the group named (I kid you not!) the Barenaked Ladies, and it's a combo of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and We Three Kings.

Some traditional lyrics are great so long as they are done right. They are "O Holy Night", "Angels We Have Heard on High", and "What Child Is This?" There's some CDs I have that are sung by nuns, and they are great. There is a version of "We Three Kings" that I wish I could find, because it was well done, and all the voices were deep male voices - especially the one for the third king who was bringing myrrh. No offense to the ladies, but that carol is best done by male voices. As for my favorite carol, I don't think that I can pick just one. There's too many that I like to narrow my choices to just one.

Christmas wishes and greetings
I've already mentioned enough times on this blog about "Happy Holidays" (HH) and its usage. Now let's tackle "Seasons Greetings" (SG). HH, despite its simplisticness, at least is understandable about what it's wishing for: A happy holiday. But what's up with "SG"? There's "Seasons", and there's "Greetings". Separately, I understand what they are. But together? I don't get it. Wikipedia offers its explanation, but it's still not a very clear greeting. HH is still a better, more understandable greeting.

Ah, and speaking of Christmas wishes and greetings, I did my own little experiment on this issue. In the past few days, I took to wearing a sticker that said "It's okay to tell me 'Merry Christmas' ", just to see if it would encourage others to tell me Merry Christmas instead of HH. The results were mixed, and next year, I'll start this experiment sooner than 3 days before Christmas.

Family gatherings
This actually deserves a better, more thorough discussion, and I shall try to do so tomorrow or the next day, but I wanted to make mention of family gatherings, because they are so much a part of our family's history. They've been scaled back considerably since the peak years of our get-togethers, but they still hold a special place in our hearts and memories - particularly when my grandmother was still alive. A part of those gatherings was the Annual Traditional Christmas Day Football games, in which all the males of the family (and one of the ladies) in their 20s through 40s still talk about, even though our last official one was over 5 years ago. This also deserves its own separate entry, and I'll likewise discuss it later.

The Reason for the Season
And now for the often overlooked part of the Christmas season: Jesus' entry into the world. I'm still amazed about the whole story, that God chose to come to earth, and not only that, he chose to come as one of us; namely, as a human. Not only THAT, he chose to come to earth the way the rest of us came to earth: Born of woman. Picture that: God as a baby. It just boggles the mind.

Along with this boggling concept is the idea of God having a mother. The woman, Mary, had to be a most remarkable woman in order to be the mother of God. Or rather, she had to be THE most remarkable woman in history, seeing as just who it was that she was asked to be the mother of. With that, it's rather disappointing that Mary isn't more appreciated by Protestants, and even some Catholics.

Can any of you imagine the concept of God as a baby? Can any of you who are mothers imagine being the mother of God? Can any of you who are fathers imagine being the foster father of God? The weight of the responsibility must be staggering! And yet, Mary and Joseph did it. God was a mere babe, and Mary bore him and raised him. Her son grew up to be the most remarkable man in human history.

It's no wonder that we still celebrate his entry into the world to this very day.

Merry Christmas, folks. May it be wonder-filled, merry, and bright.

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