You know, this Christmas stuff is getting out of hand.
The whole thing has become a frightening minefield of having to make life-altering, mind-bending and heart-stopping decisions. The stress of making decisions at Christmas time is the major cause of stroke and heart disease, not only in December but also for the next 11 calendar months.
That conclusion has not yet been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, largely because the conclusion is mine. However, I expect modern medicine to catch up shortly.
It was different 20 or 30 years ago. We lived in simpler times back then. You had decisions to make, of course, but they were not the gut-wrenching, brain-burning, stomach-churning decisions that have to be made today.
You may have noticed that the adjectives used to describe the various decisions all have to do with some part of the human body. I don’t know what that means. I just discovered it myself..
For example, it used to be that the only decision you had to make about outside decorations was how much to spend. It usually wasn’t a big decision. You checked your pockets, your budget and your wallet and that was it. Perhaps you could afford lights for the eaves of the house, and if you had a shrub in the front yard you could throw a string or two over it. No big deal.
But now you have to decide whether you want old-fashioned type lights, such as Other Have prefers, or the new fangled but environmentally friendly LED lights that she says are not nearly as festive. That’s a discussion that can take a minute or two. Or more.
Ah, but then you have to decide what kind of pattern you would like displayed by your lights. All blue? All red? A mixture of orange and green? Shouldn’t there be a star in there somewhere? How about some blowup Santas on the lawn or a couple of those nice crystal reindeer? By now you have exhausted the funds in your budget, your wallet and your pocket so that further decision making is moot.
The Christmas tree has caused more strife, altercations and divisions within the family than liquor, money (or a lack of it) and adultery combined. (You may be aware that adultery is not called adultery at Christmas. It’s more often referred to as the office Christmas party.)
First of all, you have to decide what kind of tree you want. Will it be a thick, bushy tree or a skinny little spruce? You can pick the latter up at any parking lot a week before Christmas when all the good ones are gone. That's usually one source of friction in the household which lasts well into old Christmas Day.
“I told you to go get a tree three weeks ago, but would you listen? Oh no. Lots of time, you said. Now look at the embarrassment that’s standing in the corner over there. Hang one piece of tinsel from either bough and it’ll crack off. Good job!”
If you want a bushy, bushy tree you have to buy something off a Nova Scotia Christmas tree farm. That’s fine if you don’t have a significant other who has no intention of going off the island to get a tree.
Neither will she entertain any thought of buying a tree rather than going out in the woods to cut one down as nature intended.
If you’re all of one mind on this, no real problem exists. If you’re not, the question of the survival of the family is very real
“OK, so it’s Christmas Eve. We’ve been searching for three days to find a suitable tree. Now it’s dark. There is nothing left in the parking lots, which are all closed up anyway, and our living room will look pretty naked tomorrow.”
“It’s all your fault. If we had gone and bought a Nova Scotia tree we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“You expect me to pay $50 for a Maritime tree that’s probably already a month old?”
“Certainly not! I’d rather spend $100 in gas searching roughly 500 square miles for a tree that doesn’t exist!”
Small child’s voice: “I think we should put on the “Silent Night, Holy Night” tape.”
You end up taking a tree of someone’s long that they throw out as being totally undesirable. You take it home in wounded silence and finally get it stuck up in a corner of the living room.
“Hey, there are two birds nests halfway up that tree.”
“That’s OK, dear. Gives the tree more authenticity to have God’s little creatures living in it.”
“Anything living in that thing is long since dead, like the tree itself.”
And on it goes. By this time the family stress level has gone through the roof. But there are other little decisions to be made.
“I ordered a 26-pound turkey today. Good to be ahead of the game, I say.”
“Twenty-six pounds? What do we need a 26-pound bird for? Last year we had one 15 pounds and we didn’t eat half of it on Christmas Day.”
“Isn’t your brother and his family coming for Christmas dinner? Yes? Think I’ll call him back and see if they have any 30-pound jobs.”
“You’re forgetting what your family ate last year. There wasn’t enough left over for two hot turkey sandwiches, or a bowl of turkey broth.”
“That’s because we only had a 15 pound turkey.”
Small child’s voice: “I think it’s time for “Silent Night, Holy Night” again.”
It doesn’t have to be like that, of course. In a day when decisions were simpler because choices were fewer, it rarely was. Everyone was satisfied with what was happening and no one dared dream of being anything but totally co-operative at Christmas. Right.
You’ll notice I didn’t even get into gifts.
Ed Smith lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.