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by Rose Madeline Mula

I still remember how I used to love Christmas. Thats really amazing considering how bad my memory is and how long its been since the sight of tinsel and holly and the sound of Jingle Bells have made me joyous instead of nauseous.

Looking back, I think the magic disappeared just about the time the big kids told me there was no Santa Claus. Even at that tender age, my precocious little mind must have deduced that if Santa didnt bring all those swell presents, someone sure as heck had to go out and buy them. Goodbye Ho, Ho, Ho! Hello, Boo Hoo, Hoo!

Since then, Christmas shopping has become my second least favorite activity (the first is having a root canal); and it gets progressively worse each year as it becomes increasingly harder to figure out what to buy people that (1) they would like, and (2) they havent already bought a more expensive version of for themselves. Which is a pretty revealing indication of how paradoxical our society is though everyone complains about how tough it is to make ends meet, most of the complaining seems to be done either behind the wheel of one of the two (or more) family cars, or in front of the 42-inch plasma TV, and usually by people who have a weight problem caused by an overabundance of rich food and drink.

Years ago, when we poor people really had it rough, gift selection was no problem. Aunt Clara was delighted if you bought her a pair of silk (does anyone remember silk?) stockings. (Does anyone remember stockings? They were like panty hose, only split in half, and without the panty). Of course, if she preferred panties you bought her a pair of snuggies. These were like bikini underpants, except they were knee-length, high-waisted, and made of flannel. And Uncle Joe was happy with a couple of handkerchiefs. These were something like Kleenex, only they were fabric (usually cotton, which youll remember if you remember silk), and you washed and re-used them instead of throwing them away.

As for the children, weve all heard stories form the old folks of how they used to be beside themselves with joy if they found so much as an orange, instead of a lump of coal, in their Christmas stockings. Today its not so easy to please a kid. Unless the eight-foot tree is completely hidden behind a pile of bionic, electronic, computerized, overautomated and overpriced toys that cost more than you used to have to spend to furnish an entire house (real, not doll), they start reading you their Constitutional rights. (They interpret the dictum that all men are created equal to mean they should get as many expensive presents as the spoiled rich brat across town.) Yep, things sure have changed. The only way an orange would please a child today would be if he got to pick it himself from a tree growing in Disneyland.

And, as I said, every year it gets worse and it starts earlier. The Christmas ads (which used to be respectful enough to wait until the Thanksgiving turkey was cold) now compete for space with ads for the post-Fourth-of-July sales (which start appearing in May). I speak the truth. I swear that last June, the local Holiday Inns marquee proclaimed, RESERVE NOW FOR CHRISTMAS PARTIES. I wanted to throw up. Instead I started my Christmas shopping and really got ill. Not that Macys and Nordstroms arent lovely stores, but they werent where I had planned to spend my summer vacation or the money I had saved up for my summer vacation.

You would not believe the problems I had. Aunt Clara is now out of snuggies (which used to cost $1.98) and into designer tennis dresses (which cost $300), and her thighs looked much better in the snuggies. Uncle Joe has given up handkerchiefs and developed a hankering for Tommy Hilfiger. No, Uncle Joe has not turned gay; he just likes Tommys expensive jeans, which he mistakenly believes make him look young and hip. As for the kids on my list, all the little boys already own everything from mini sports cars (guaranteed not to exceed thirty miles per hour for safety reasons) to back-yard tree houses with indoor plumbing. And the girls are all flying to Paris with their parents regularly to replenish their Barbie dolls wardrobes at Christian Dior. Now I ask you, what in the name of Rudolph do you buy these little sophisticates to put the old Christmas sparkle in their eyes? Selecting gifts for my friends was no easier. It seems we keep playing, Can you top this? You know how it is. If you think Richard is going to squander fifty bucks on you, you feel you must spend at least sixty dollars for something he probably will never wear/eat/display or splash on his face or body. The choice of gift isnt important. The main concern is that it be in the right price range. And it escalates every year.

Which brings me to my third least favorite activity sending Christmas cards. I hate buying them, I hate paying the postage to mail them, and I really hate addressing them. More than that, I hate trying to decide who to send them to. Every year I go through the same weed-out-the-list exercise. I tell myself its silly to send cards to people I see regularly since I can wish them a happy holiday in person. So I scratch these friends from the list until I receive cards from them, at which point they go right back on. Stupid, huh?

But whats even dumber is leaving on the list the people I never see and hardly ever hear from. The so-called logic behind this goes something like this: Gee, I havent seen or spoken to the Smiths for twenty years, and the only time we touch base is at Christmas, so I really should send a card. Why? After two decades of not communicating except for holiday cards, we no longer have anything in common. There might be more point to it, if we at least exchanged letters at Christmas (and I dont mean those boastful, Xeroxed lies), but we dont. They send me a card, usually with just a printed greeting and name, and I send them one which I at least sign myself. And to make it more personal, I also usually add a terribly original phase such as, Have a great holiday! And we forget each other for another year. Is this keeping in touch?

Since I no longer keep a list of people who send me cards, I have a terrible feeling that, unbeknownst to me, half the people on my list may be dead and Im still sending them cards. I hope at least that theyre being forwarded. All of which goes to explain why Christmas makes me nauseous. But from now on, its going to be different! No more expensive gifts! No more cards to the world at large! Come January 1, Im making a New Years resolution which reminds me of my fourth least favorite activity

But thats a whole other story.

©2008 Rose Madeline Mula for

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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