On the Saturday before Christmas, as I stood in line at Home Depot watching people who apparently have never used a computer before try to operate the “Self-Checkout” gizmo, I realized that it’s time, once again, for…Holiday Rules!! Just ten simple tips to get to January 2 without making a side trip to your local jail…
1. Put Down that Cell Phone! I’m talkin’ to you, Salesclerk at CVS, aggressive driver in the parking lot at Target, big guy in the parka blocking my access to the coffee at 7-Eleven. Everyone’s holidays will be much happier if we put down the phones long enough to talk to real people! (I obviously don’t have many friends, I never have to talk on the cell phone while shopping unless Trinity Security is looking for me…)
2. Self-Checkout is NOT FOR NEWBIES! Seriously, if you’ve never used one of these things before, please don’t decide that two days before Christmas at Ikea is the best time for your continuing education. Really! That’s why they have those nice cashiers — the ones not talking on cell phones!
3. Everybody has Important Things Going On!! So, chill. Pushing past everyone else because you think yours is more important than theirs is a good example of how wars start. You can feel extremely virtuous and keep the peace by letting that aggressive driver have that parking space even though you saw it first!
4. Hum along with the Muzak carols… Gotcha! You who claim that Bach is the only music worth hearing, and you with those earbuds snaking down your chest! I saw you mouthing the words, “ten lords a-leaping” and doing that “pa-rum-pa-dum-dum” think with your hands! It’s ok! We’re all doing the Halleluja Chorus!
5. The Redskins are OVER — go outside and get some exercise! Exercise will help you deal with the stress of all those relatives, the question of eggnog, and the Andy Williams Christmas reruns. (Plus, who knows, if you go outside and work on your passing game, Danny Snyder might just stop by and offer you $78 million to be the quarterback. You won’t actually have to play, you can just suit up and sit on the bench!)
6. Be glad you have a place to go… Wherever you spend the holidays, no matter how much trouble it may seem at first, give thanks for the gift of family and friends, the hospitality you can extend or share however modest, the privilege of celebrating a season that signifies joy and hope across many religious traditions. Too many neighbors on this small planet know no seasons of joy or hope or charity.
7. Go eagle-spotting at Blackwater. OK, so Washingtonians are a little sensitive about the word “eagles.” But sometime during the holidays, when the kids have broken all the new toys and you’re watching reruns on Hulu … bundle everybody into the car and head east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, south to Cambridge and down into Dorchester County to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Better than the zoo, the animals are free, and the scenery is spectacular. Eagles abound, great blue heron are numerous, tundra swans and many duck species are abundant. Stay late and watch the amazing show around dusk as thousands of snow geese gather in endless swarms — the flapping of ten thousand wings makes an memorable sound. It’s so much fun you’ll even forget what Cousin Freddie did in front of Great Aunt Gertrude. (It involved six geese a-laying, but that’s another story…)
8. Leave your baggage in 2010. New Year’s Day is coming, and you can start bagging-up all that dreck you don’t need to carry with you into 2011. That includes that list of slights and annoyances perpetrated on you by colleagues, bosses, friends and others. Forgiveness is a great gift to others, and a fresh outlook is the best gift to yourself.
9. Nobody needs more stuff, make a gift to charity instead of Best Buy. Some of the most important social service organizations in this town are hurting these days since the recession led to cutbacks in foundation funding and public grants. Honor your friends with gifts to charities in their name. It’s easy, you can do it online through Network for Good. (And if you can’t think of a single charity you’d like to support, my favorite gift is always a gift to Trinity — hint, hint! — it always fits, tastes good, and has no calories! Plus it keeps on giving in the students your gift supports.)
10. Go to Church, reflect on the real meaning of this season. Whatever your faith, this is a season that welcomes and encourages spiritual enrichment. Midnight Mass is the best antidote to crass commercialism.
Merry Christmas to All!