I have a long history of being late with Christmas shopping. Well, being late with everything, according to my husband, but late Christmas shopping is where I particularly shine. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more exciting it gets. I can find awesome gifts at the grocery store on December 24 ”and have a blast doing so. (I ™ve even been known to buy and wrap presents after Christmas, but please, don't spread that around.)
Usually, I had excuses for the lateness. Real ones, of course. I was studying for finals . . . or lying in bed with horrible morning sickness. Or stuck at home with a constantly sick asthmatic kid ”and the list goes on. Regardless of the reason, each year you ™ll find me scurrying around the mall on December 23 (and sometimes, 24).
This year, things were different. I decided to be smart, focused, and, for once, on time. I started Christmas shopping in the fall. That is, I found a great bargain on a sweater for my daughter in September. Everything else I bought in November. Come December 1, my closet was full of wrapped, tagged presents. My Christmas shopping was done.
How wonderful! Now I finally had time to focus on decorating and baking. I could shed all that materialistic, stressful shopping nonsense and concentrate on the real spirit of Christmas. Now, I could have one of those relaxed, deep-breathing, homemade-cookies-Martha-Stewart Christmases, instead of a frantically-wrapping-presents-at-2-a.m.-after-midnight-Mass Christmas. I was so proud of myself.
I should have been happy.
It was like something was missing. At first, I tried to ignore the signs. I pretended that I wasn't still Christmas shopping for my daughter; the fact that I was officially done buying for her about 10 presents ago just meant that I was a savvy shopper ”or a sucker for a sale on cute outfits and fun toys. The fact that I kept writing and rewriting my gift list showed that I was kind and didn't want to forget someone, not that I secretly hoped I had forgotten someone so I could start thinking up ideas. My husband wasn't much help; according to him, if I felt so badly I could always go out and buy more gifts for him!
It wasn't until I found myself looking at items and seriously considering buying them for next Christmas ”that's Christmas 2010 ”that I began to understand the nature of the problem.
I suddenly realized that last-minute shopping had become a Christmas tradition for me, as familiar and necessary to that Christmas feeling as lighting the Advent wreath, hearing carols on the radio, decorating the tree, or eating tourtiÃ¨re on Christmas Eve. I liked Christmas shopping, especially at the last minute. Without it, December didn't seem, well, Christmassy.
So here we are the weekend before Christmas. I ™m at home, watching It's a Wonderful Life, listening to carols, looking at the decorated tree, thinking about the freezer stuffed with homemade cookies and Christmas breads. And checking and double-checking that Christmas list. And then checking it again.
I give up. To all of you packing the malls on December 23, I ™ll see you there. If nothing else, I can get started on next year's Christmas shopping!