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By Jim Kempton
One of our favorite holiday traditions is the family outing to see A Christmas Carol in the South Coast Repertory Theater at the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. The whole brood goes, all our kids, the aunt and uncle and assorted friends of the family who often take up half a row in the little theater. The kids still love it, even though they have kids of their own now and knew the story by heart from before they could read.
We have been enjoying this ritual for 22 years now, and if nothing else it is delightful suspense to see if the masterful Hal Landon (who plays Scrooge with Oscar-worthy grace) will actually be able to somersault onto his bed, into his top hat and land triumphant on the other side. We always try to go early in December because once we walk out of the theater in the crisp winter air, visions of a Christmas goose and ghosts and goodwill ringing in our heads, it just seems like the holiday season has really arrived.
For those who are more circumspect about all this hoopla we surround Christmas with, I offer seven reminders we should be thankful for during the holiday season. And for those oversensitive folks, I’m not ruining Christmas—the recommendations are tongue-in-cheek.
Don’t scorn all the frantic consumerism. Serious shoppers don’t think of Christmas as a stressful effort to get loved ones something meaningful; they think of it as a boot camp for the January department store sales.
Enjoy the kids! Gifts of love come in the most unsuspecting ways. One of the clearest signs that my children are still dedicated to the family’s holiday cheer is that they come unsolicited to help us put the Christmas lights up on the roof.
Don’t begrudge Christmas carols and holiday packaging in stores before Halloween. It is a national duty to keep the economy safe for democracy. Nearly 20 percent of consumer spending is done during the month of December. So our businesses are just exercising wealth redistribution to the less fortunate months.
It’s better to receipt. Many of the presents we get at Christmas are things we neither need nor want. But there is no need for disdain. Keep the faith, keep the cup of kindness and keep all the receipts for returning gifts on Dec 26.
Thank the fruitcake. Consider the item as a dietary assistance program. Be glad that you get those disgusting fruitcakes for Christmas—it is the only time in all of December when you won’t eat something unnecessary.
Grow old gracefully. In the spirit of Saint Nicholas, accept the fact that there are three stages to a man’s Christmas experience in life—when he believes in Santa, when he stops believing in Santa and when he becomes Santa.
Prepare for the price for love. They say the holidays have magic in the air, but not all of it is benign. If you don’t believe Christmas is a magical time of the year, just check your bank statement in January and watch the disappearing act that takes place.
Jim Kempton is a San Clemente writer and surfer who knows he is getting old when none of the things he wants for Christmas come in wrapped packages or are bought in a store.