Extending Christmas spirit beyond the holidays

Published 11:10 am Friday, January 5, 2018

Somewhere in America at this time (New Year 2018) some folks are getting ready for bed. Yes, it may be just 5:36 but they are under intense pressure to do their creative best. After all, early on 12-25-18, folks will be tearing into their creations, scattering pieces helter skelter. Later that morning when Mom begins to collect it all in a trash bag, the realization will start to settle over everyone. Yes, Christmas will be over.

Those early elves must get to their drawing boards and do their creative best to come up with right, clever paper designs for next Christmas. One can only marvel at the process of supplanting existing papers — which no one remembers — with marvelous new patterns — which no one will remember this new year after Mom stuffs it in a garbage bag.

Of course, everything I’ve written so far just might be wrong. Could it be that wrapping paper and decorations are created in the order of occurrence? Would that mean that Easter precedes the Fourth of July, which is chased away by Turkey Day?

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No, that won’t work, as proven by those chains of stores that have decorations for all seasons on their shelves at all seasons. Can I be forgiven for saying I don’t want to see Christmas decorations on store shelves in July?

Perhaps we might also take up for consideration the greeting cards. Surely there are Hallmark artists ready to get down to creating a perfect card for every individual, living or dead, in the country. The Christmas we’re still digesting likely gave us fewer religious cards than other years. Certainly Christmas promotions on the tube were less spiritual. I can only wish the grinches bad luck in their effort to en masse commercialize Christmas. But . . .

Yes, a painful But might well follow what’s been said because in large part it is not Grinch and businesses that are filtering Christmas spirit out of the Christmas season. I’m afraid that I must admit my own guilt. Truth be told, I’m too prone to get caught up in the season. And gift lists very much reflect generosity for close friends and loved ones but scant contributions to folks who may only benefit from the dollar or two I stick in a Salvation Army Kettle pot now and again. One year I decided to not be commercial Oh, I did send Christmas cards to my usual list, but I didn’t buy gifts for them. Instead I put a note in the cards telling the reader that I had decided to make gifts to various charities in their names in lieu of presents. Usually no responses to Christmas cards come back, but that got some generous thank yous.

I must also confess that I’ve become more and more adept at getting all the Yuletide chores done in order to be able to enjoy the season. One year that meant having greeting cards signed, stuffed and stamped by July1. I tried the same thing in 2017, licking the flap on the last card in March. Ah, but then I forgot where I put the box.

If the wrecking ball levels this spot, the workmen may wonder at the old fool who tried to outwit Christmas.

Last week at my son’s house, I came across a book on his table: Unplugging the Christmas Machine. While I didn’t read it, I did discover a wonderful little piece of writing at the start. May I share with you The Christmas Pledge? Perhaps we might try to extend Christmas spirit well beyond December 25.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to

Remember those people who truly need my gifts

Express my love in more direct ways than gifts

Examine my holiday activities in the light of deepest values

Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends

Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth.

And, in case our paths didn’t cross at the right time, may I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.