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Carol Perkins: Balancing Christmas

'Why do most of us overwork and overspend and overcompensate at Christmas? We don't know how not to,' Carol Perkins says in this commentary
The next earlier Carol Perkins column: Signs

By Carol Perkins

'Tis the season to run away from home. Do you feel this way? Can you visualize yourself on a cruise with strangers, listening to Reggae music as you head toward a Caribbean Island? Can you picture flying to the Rocky Mountains, renting a cabin high among the aspens, and watching the snow, drifting like feathers to the frozen ground? Oh, what a picture perfect Christmas. Too perfect.

First of all, I realize not everyone spends this season in turmoil. There are a few sane people who have the art of Christmas down to writing checks and putting them into an envelope and hanging them from tree branches. There are those who simply don't have many people for whom to buy gifts, so they have more time to enjoy the season. However, there are many who find the season exhausting. I am one of them.

On the other hand, what would Christmas be without stress? Let's face it, we have come to expect the season to exhaust us. We count on it. What would we complain about during the month of December if not for the hassle of Christmas? "I'm worn out from shopping and haven't finished yet!" That's because shopping has become too complicated.

For most people, they either have what they need or don't need it. Most kids are showered with toys throughout the year, so what is another one? I said to my grandson on my last visit, "Luke, I don't know what to buy you for Christmas. You have everything a boy could want." I said this as I surveyed the kids' playroom. His reply was a good one, "But, CiCi, I like new things, too."

We all like new things. That's why surprising people with new things that they might not buy for themselves was once the motivation behind gift giving. Not anymore. We are conditioned to get them what they have on their list. Although that should take the stress out of shopping, it doesn't always work that way. One year Guy stopped at every Toys' R Us in Kentucky and Tennessee looking for a Cabbage Patch doll that flew off the shelves too quickly. He finally found that doll!

All and all, I have to question where the season went astray. When did we turn Christmas into a circus of madmen and women, fighting over TV sets or computer games? When did we want items so badly that we were willing to wait in long lines to get wristbands in order to come back at a certain time to buy an item? Have we gone Christmas crazy?

I walked out of a store on the Saturday after Black Friday with my arms filled with packages and looked at my friend and said, "This is ridiculous, isn't it?" She knew what I meant. Within a few minutes of opening the gifts at any gathering, the moment is over and the only thing that really matters to adults is the food.

Within a month, most adults and kids won't know who gave them what gift. They probably won't use most of what they were given or need any of what they received. So, why do most of us overwork and overspend and overcompensate at Christmas? We don't know how not to; we have grown accustomed to the custom.

This story was posted on 2010-12-19 03:10:17
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