Ten steps to a joyful winter*

*And when I say “winter,” I mostly mean “Christmas.”

If you’re lucky like me and live in a climate that sees four seasons, winter and snow and all of that are either here or closing in. American Turkey Day is over (in Canada, we have ours in the October, usually in the Indian summer sunshine) and the Christmas stuff is piling up around us, so it’s time to get our heads (covered in a warm cozy wool cap, preferably) into the game. Follow these simple tips for a better early winter/Christmas season—for us all!

  1. Do not get into the elevator at work on the morning of the first snowfall and gripe about the fact that you slid all over the road all the way to the office. Battling self-created challenges is not heroic. Snow arrives at roughly the same time of year—every year. It’s not winter’s fault that you’re disorganized.
  2. In the same vein, do not yell at the guy on the phone at the tire place because you can’t get an immediate appointment. It’s not his fault either, that you’re disorganized. Or that there are so many of you sharing this affliction.
  3. Dropping a 69-cent box of store brand spaghetti into the food bank bin at the supermarket is not really giving from the heart. Unless you currently use a food bank or are locked into a string of events that may cause you to use one soon, you can do better. Think protein. And that all kids like candy.
  4. You are not Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart isn’t Martha Stewart. Sure, that’s her name and she’s really smart and creative and I’m a fan—but she has an army of equally smart and creative people to pitch in and help out. Chances are you don’t. So be content with doing ONE thing incredibly well. Bake and decorate the most amazing Christmas tree cake. Make the most memory-inspiring cinnamon vanilla spice potpourri. Knit the dog a holiday sweater complete with twinkling lights and teach him to serve your guests eggnog. But ask of yourself no more than to do just one perfect thing. Then make peace with a crooked but still luminous tree, presents wrapped in dollar store gift bags, a slightly dry turkey and store-bought pies.
  5. It is not a sign of weakness to allow a guest to bring something to dinner. Repeat this quietly to yourself if that something turns out to be topped in miniature marshmallows.
  6. Yes, by the time we hit middle age, we’ve all heard every Christmas carol ever written a couple of trillion times. I’m sure someone has done the math. We know them by heart; we could dance them in our sleep. That repetition is what makes them a tradition. It’s only for a few weeks. If you listen, they’re really pretty. And if you want an unfettered run through a crowded grocery or department store this time of year, start loudly belting out the carols being piped into the store. Sing them at the top of your lungs. I’ve tried this. I assure you, carts will be moved to let you pass.
  7. There’s no law that says you have to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Diwali Kwanza or Saturnalia. But there’s a moral imperative that you don’t totally buzz-kill those who do.
  8. Clearly, yes, Christmas has become over-commercialized. But you aren’t the first person to notice that and bring it up. Repeating it over and over, generally followed by a loud and superior-sounding sigh does nothing to improve the human condition. How about walking your talk? If you don’t want to spend the holidays like the rest of us retail-duped mortals, you can volunteer to help out at a mission or homeless shelter. Go caroling at a seniors’ home. There are plenty of helpful ways to purge all the superficiality of the modern Christmas from your delicate soul.
  9. On the other hand, do not loudly complain (or possibly brag) to as many people who will listen that it’s December 22 and you still haven’t yet started your Christmas shopping. That’s a desperate cry for attention. There’s nothing admirable about being disorganized, apathetic or lazy. Christmas always falls on the same date; you can’t be surprised by it. Besides, a lot of stores are open 24 hours and there’s always the Internet. Get over yourself.
  10. Stop. No really, just stop. Breathe. Sure you’ll lose a few minutes but it’s worth it. Take a walk in freshly fallen snow lit by moonlight. Watch a Christmas movie right to the end. (I recommend One Magic Christmas.) Get a Christmasy flavoured fancy coffee, minty and mocha-like is good, sit on a mall bench and watch a two-year-old’s mix of abject terror and fascination at being touched by magic as he waits to sit on Santa’s lap. Try to see the whole of this season through his eyes. There. That should keep you going strong right into the New Year.
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