December 21st – The Winter Solstice! Some people chant. Some people pray. Some people go skinny dipping. I start my Christmas shopping.
There is nothing quite like a deadline to get me focused.
Despite the myriad of faiths and family traditions that make up our culture, this time of year always seems to be filled with people genuinely focused on giving more than receiving. Perhaps it is the increasing daylight the solstice brings that inspires Secret Layaway Santa’s, Salvation Army contributors and Toys-4-Tots donors. Whatever it is, there is no shortage of generosity this time of year. I personally cannot articulate the relationship between the birth of Jesus and Santa Claus – other than so many people say “Merry Christmas!” and enjoy invoking both names as a reason for giving. I like giving, and I like receiving.
Santa visits our home. Still. Honestly, I thought this tradition would have faded years ago once our children (Chris-26, Caity – 25) stopped believing in the magic of this annual ritual of socially accepted commercial excess. But each year I offer them a way out, “Please let me know if you don’t believe in Santa. PLEASE!”
I always get the same answer, “No, we still believe.” And so it goes; it is just one of our family traditions.
One of the holiday gift giving traditions in our home is the annual “What do you want for Christmas?” dance. For the 31 Christmases we’ve been together, it rarely deviates. It goes something like this:
Leigh: “What do you want for Christmas?”
Me: “Oh, same as always.”
Leigh: “No really, what do you want?
Me: “Really. I’d like you do get on a table and dance like a slut.”
Me: “I am serious. That’s all I want.”
Leigh: “Do you need boxers?”
Me: “You can wear whatever you’d like, dear.”
She then rolls her eyes and we agree on a budget amount we’ll spend on each other. Then we promptly go out and blow the budget.
My gift shopping tradition really isn’t very complicated. I always stop to see my girlfriend, Lisa, at “The Proper Setting” in New Cumberland. I walk in; she gives me a Christmas kiss and a Christmas hug, and then tells me what Leigh wants. I always do what Lisa says.
Leigh’s passion for golf can usually be fed by a trip to the Pro Shop.
And there is always the “Gonna Do” gift deferral tactic. It only requires imagination. I conjure up a trip to New York City or someplace warm, and then write it in a card. While there are no upfront costs, I garner points for the anticipation of the romantic getaway. Another benefit of this efficient gift giving technique: It prolongs the period of “good behavior” which has been known to expire the day after Christmas.
The best gift I ever gave (as measured by direct and immediate response) was adding 74’ lineal feet of shelving in our master bedroom’s walk-in closet. With my own tools and my best impersonation of ‘plumbers butt’, I set forth and installed the shelving. All of the collective gratitude expressed for all the jewelry, trips, and lingerie I’ve given Leigh over the past 32 Christmas’s do not even remotely compare that of ‘more shelf space’. I may not understand the connection between Santa and the Bible, but I do have an idea why Jesus was a carpenter.
In 2010, we deviated from our Christmas tradition of spending the day with our core family in our home. In fact with Caity living in Hawaii, and Chris in Ft. Lauderdale, it was the first time in 25 years the 4 of us did not wake up under the same roof on Christmas day, and only the second time we were not in our own home.
Fortunately, Santa ‘got the memo’ and knew where to find us in Florida.
2011 has brought a new twist to our holiday traditions. Chris and his girlfriend Lindsey Waite are in town from Philadelphia for Christmas Day. Lindsey, of the York(PA) “Waite’s”, invited us down to join them in their Christmas Eve family gathering. Of course it is always a potentially incendiary risk to even mention the integration of the words “girlfriend” and “family tradition” – but what the hell, this is what Dad’s are for.
Our core family has in fact grown this year with Caity’s marriage to Pete Serra (among other skills he has already mastered, carpentry is one worth noting). While unclear what traditions they will develop, it is wonderful to have them here.
No matter what your faith or beliefs, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus or just the good old US economy – I hope you enjoy this season of giving.
What’s funny is I am now one of those guys that says, “All I want for Christmas is to have my kid’s home”; and for my bride to get on a table and dance…”