Little Scarf Girl hasn't vanished, don't worry. She's still very much around, and very, very busy.
I always loved the Christmas season as a child. It was like this magical time of the year when all one could think about was getting those special presents on Christmas morning. There were cookies, parties, buying presents, music, pictures with Santa, church, the Advent calendar and wreath, and of course, Christmas Eve Mass. All of this led up to the wonderful Christmas day!
As for buying gifts, Mountain Dew Girl and I were given a twenty dollar bill and were to use it to buy presents for our family. With roughly $2.50 to spend on each person, we would wander into the Dollar Tree store and each pick out a plastic toy for Guitar Player Boy, a tea set or other small toy for each other, and a ceramic candle-stick holder for our mom. Our dad was always the hardest to shop for. I remember one year Mountain Dew Girl bought him a very, very outdated Sport Illustrated Video from the Dollar Tree, and I bought him a candy gummy foot from the candy store.
So with a firm budget and limited store selection and only four people to buy gifts for, Christmas shopping was fun, easy, and short back in the day. Today, however, it's an entirely different story. With multitudes of family (and in my case, Random Knowledge Boy's family, as well) and friends to buy gifts for, all with varying tastes, it becomes almost a chore rather than a pleasure. I just returned home from shopping with Mountain Dew Girl as we tried to pick out last-minute gifts for a couple of friends.
"Maybe he would like this t-shirt?"
"Would he ever wear it?""
"I don't know..."
"Does it matter?"
"...no? I don't know!"
For presents, beyond what to get someone, you must factor in how much one should spend on an individual present. Is a good friend worth $10? $20? Or maybe just a $5, "It's the thought that counts"-type gift? But even so, if you have a lot of good friends, that can add up pretty fast!
And who are obligated to buy a present for? Do you need to get your boyfriend's aunt a gift? What about your roommates? And then there's the horrible event of someone giving you a gift, and you hadn't even thought to buy them one. That's when you have to scrape the bottom of your Bath and Body Works bag for a bottle of holiday soap or a scented candle that could be passed off as a thoughtful present with some ribbon and a cute cellophane bag.
Once you've purchased all of your presents, then it's time to wrap the up. Cue the expensive, shimmery wrapping paper (or the cheap, "It'll probably rip when I move it" kind of paper), lots of tape, ribbon, and bows. Don't forget to pull off those price tags! (I had to unwrap one of my gifts this year because I had forgotten about the price tag.)
And then there's the gift-giving etiquette. I got a lot of gifts this year for friends who probably aren't going to get me anything in return. I don't mind that; it's not about what you're getting out of it. (For the most part.) But there is a certain gift-giving etiquette. Do you hand them the gift and tell them to open it? Give them the bag or wrapped present and tell them to enjoy as you're walking out the door? My favorite part of gift-giving is watching the reactions as they open them. In Japan, one never opens a gift in front of the person who gave it to them. Way to take the fun out of it!
Finally, there's the Christmas schedule. When to visit family, when to open gifts, when to attend Mass, what to eat, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. In an attempt to do everything, see everyone, and make sure everyone is happy, you end up stressing yourself out and miss out on the relaxing Christmas vacation you've been looking forward to all semester.
Sometimes, I really think that Christmas was more fun when I was a kid just tagging along for the ride and on the receiving end of most of the gifts. But I suppose the baton has been passed, and now I am among those adults caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season.
Go figure that Christmas is actually a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, right? (Unfortunately, I think that if the country were polled about the most important thing about Christmas, gift cards might somehow wind up as the #1 answer.)
Merry Christmas, everyone!