A day-after-Christmas gift

Congratulations! If you're reading this, you've survived another Christmas. Now let's see if you can endure the aftermath.

The days between Christmas and New Year's Eve are the doldrums of winter. Kids are home from school, but it's usually too cold to banish them to the outdoors. Many grown-ups are off work, loitering around the house, eating too much and watching mindless TV and having our bare feet punctured by fallen Tannenbaum needles.

We're all cooped up together, and the whole family settles into a disappointed funk.

We build up Christmas so much in this country -- starting around Halloween each year -- there's no way the holiday can live up to the hype:

--We didn't get the gifts we secretly wanted most, or the gifts weren't as cool as we thought they'd be.

--Holiday gatherings weren't the Norman-Rockwell-winter-wonderland-sleighbells-ringing scenarios we'd hoped, particularly since Uncle Floyd doesn't know how to behave when he's had a few.

--The children haven't shown near enough appreciation for the tooth-and-nail battles we parents fought to get the sold-out toy they really, really wanted.

By now, at least of one of those expensive Christmas toys has broken, resulting in tears and recriminations and false promises. The batteries in all the other toys have died, and parents everywhere are hurrying to convenience stores to pay three prices for new ones. It's all part of Santa's diabolical plan. Right now, he's on a beach somewhere, maniacally laughing his jingle bells

The house is a wreck, and sighing parents know we'll be plucking stray tinsel out of the carpet for months to come. All those cheerful lights and decorations must be taken down and packed up and put away before they're destroyed. We might've hung our stockings by the chimney with care, but right now one of the kids has them on his feet, using them to stomp the Christmas ornaments to smithereens. We've got dried-out dead trees in our living rooms, just waiting for a passing spark. Gift-wrap paper is strewn through every room, and the dog's discovered that it tastes good. Pretty soon, he'll yark up a colorful display of glitter and gilt.

(Speaking of gift wrap, answer me this: How come some people spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on extravagant Christmas presents, then suddenly become penny-pinchers when it comes to saving wrapping paper and bows "for next year?" You know who you are. Explain yourselves.)

Why do some food items that are special yummy treats at Christmas -- I'm thinking here of egg nog and fruitcake -- suddenly seem disgusting once the holiday has passed? Even the dog won't touch them.

If you've managed to avoid an actual hangover by steering clear of the egg nog, you're still facing the financial hangover that follows each Christmas season. Don't believe me? Wait until you see January's credit-card bills.

The post-holiday doldrums do have an "up" side. Now that Christmas is over, life eventually will get back to normal. You won't have to go to the mall unless you actually NEED something (or to exchange your disappointing gifts). Your Duracell stock holdings just went up. And, pretty soon, that Christmas Muzak will stop going round and round in your head.

So try to enjoy the next few days. Watch some football rather than another rerun of "It's a Wonderful Life." Throw out the leftovers in favor of regular food. Whatever you do, avoid weighing yourself. Tell the kids the Grinch has stolen all the batteries from every store in town. Host a festive tree-burning out in the yard.

You should take this time to relax. Remember: Only 364 shopping days left until next Christmas.

(Editor's note: This little scrooge of a column appeared a few years ago. This year's Dec. 26 is much more mellow. It helps to spend a few days at the beach right before Christmas.)

No comments: