Whether Christmas hurtles like a mountain avalanche toward you as you panic over all you didn’t do, or it curls like a sated cat in the corner as you sip wine in celebration of the foresight to get it all done already, now is a good time to remember the menagerie of minutiae that regularly gets lost in the big holiday crush.
• If you haven’t bought a live tree, remember to check for freshness when not cutting your own. Shake the needles, thump the trunk on the ground a few times to see how many fall. A fresh tree is the first step in avoiding potential problems once it’s in the house, bringing up the next reminder.
• Keep live trees well-watered. Keep them away from direct heat sources that dry them out more quickly. Check light wires for fraying before adorning the fir. When you buy a tree, be sure it got a fresh cut at the bottom no more than three hours before it gets into water at home, lest it seal up and drink less. Don’t leave lights on all the time, especially when you aren’t home or are in bed. Tree fires aren’t a major problem in the U.S., but they can be devastating, and dry trees burn much, much faster than those kept fresh.
• If you’re not done shopping, consider buying local as much as possible. Locally-owned stores keep more of your money nearby, improving the economy for the place where you live.
• Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. Don’t do much of anything and drive. The roads get busy, the kids get off from school, and a moment’s distraction can destroy the holiday and, worse, a life.
• Don’t let the barrage of begging from many charities sour your ability to give. Pick one or two you feel are truly worthy and help. Maybe Toys for Tots, maybe toys or a food pantry at your local church, maybe a national charity doing work that strikes home, maybe just helping a neighbor.
• Take in a local show, there are a lot of them. Miracle on 34th Street at the Music Box Playhouse, A Charlie Brown Christmas by Gaslight Theatre, A Christmas Carol at Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, The Nutcracker ballet at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center — that’s just a smattering of Christmas-themed entertainment in the area this year.
• Don’t let “culture warriors” distract you into missing the joy — or spirituality — of it all. There is a fundamental truth at work: By definition, no one can take “Christ” out of Christmas except the Christian celebrating it. This holiday is what you make it, not what others tell you to make it, or even what others say it is being made into.
• At family gatherings, leave politics on the door mat. Trolling for trouble by provoking others into arguments — particularly easy to do even by accident in these hyper-partisan days — is pretty much the antithesis of this holiday.
If it seems times are tough and a simple Christmas is all you can (or want to) do, remember that was how it was for most of us not so long ago. When in doubt, strip the holiday down to its essence. It’s about giving, receiving, loving, sharing and the transcendent possibilities of humanity.