Jessie Raymon: Christmas creeping our way

I noticed something yesterday: Christmas is only seven weeks away.
I haven’t even put my garden hose away yet, so you might expect my reaction to be one of surprise and dismay.
Not this year.
Instead, I shocked myself by thinking, “Well, then, it’s about time I started planning for the holidays.”
This is new and different. And a little disturbing.
I’ve spent a lifetime resisting “Christmas Creep,” which is not, as you might assume, the nickname of some pervert running around in a Santa hat wearing nothing under his red coat but a sprig of mistletoe. Rather, it’s a term for the ever-earlier marketing of the holidays by retailers.
In fact, it’s been my standard policy to ignore Christmas until as late in December as possible: Cut down the last tree standing, shop at the point when the mall looks like a zombie convention, and stay up half the night during the week before Christmas frantically knitting itchy items, in the wrong size, for family members who would prefer iTunes gift cards. I always figured the best way to handle the craziness of the holidays was to compress it into the shortest conceivable time frame.
As reasonable as that sounds, it tends to have the opposite effect. So, for the past several years, I’ve been starting the holidays earlier and earlier.
It’s out of character for me, given that I openly question the priorities and moral fiber of people who finish up their Christmas shopping in August. Is your Christmas list a series of color-coded charts that you started checking off during clearance sales last January? Good for you. We will never be friends.
And yet, I noticed that this year, thanks to a later-than-usual Thanksgiving, we’ll have only four weekends between Black Friday and Christmas, rather than the usual five. No big deal? If you think back, you will recall that December weekends feel less like an Andy Williams Christmas special and more like the inside of a vigorously shaken snow globe.
In between the parties and school assemblies, accented with the excitement of the occasional weather emergency, you strive — hot-glue gun in hand — to create a glowing holiday atmosphere, a fantasy combining memories of Christmases past with scenes from the Pottery Barn fall/winter catalog. It’s a beautiful dream in which you never forget the cookies in the oven or threaten to strangle a loved one with a strand of twinkle lights if they don’t stop humming that infernal Ukrainian bell carol.
But it’s impossible.
If you hope to maintain any semblance of Christmas cheer, four weekends is simply not enough time to deck the halls, shop for and wrap presents, decorate the tree, bake 40 varieties of cookies, stick cloves into citrus fruits in a decorative fashion, clean the house for company, and make a charming gingerbread house from scratch.
Let’s look at just that last item, for example. Myth: Making a gingerbread house is a lovely family tradition for all ages to enjoy on a snowy Saturday afternoon.
Reality: Making a gingerbread house is a test of familial devotion that requires no fewer than 100 man hours, $250 in royal icing and gumdrops and, ideally, an engineering degree. The project will cause you to miss out on two full weekends of other, equally harrowing, lovely family traditions. Don’t do it. (Note: I am totally doing this.)
Yes, I am highly susceptible to taking on too much during the holidays. But I’ve come to accept that I have three options:
•  Go into overdrive in December, so that my rabid desire to create a perfect Christmas ironically ruins it. In other words, the usual.
•  Do less. (Ha.)
•  At the risk of others openly questioning my moral fiber, start preparing for the holidays as early as necessary — seven weeks early, even — to ease the time crunch, plan realistically for all the holiday activities I want to do and head into December mentally ready for a beautiful, low-stress Christmas.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but this morning I turned the calendar to the December page and made a few preliminary notes.
It looks like Christmas Creep* has claimed another victim.
*Not the pervert.

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