It sounds like a great idea. Do your Christmas shopping early, so the costs are spread out over time, and you are not rushing around on Christmas Eve looking for last minute gifts. It is like a beautiful package of common sense, wrapped up in a ribbon of duh. And yet in practice, it is a disaster. For me anyway.
Look, you may be one of “those people” who can “make a plan” and then “stick to the plan,” and in the end it “turns out well” for you. I am not one of those people. I did not think through the implications of this genius idea before I undertook it. Because I forgot one important thing about myself. I love gifts. I love to get them and, more importantly, I even more so love to give them. Any excuse to buy people a present, and I am there. And when it comes to my children? Forget about it. I want to spoil them so hard when I am out shopping that it is all I can do not to put every fun-looking toy into my cart.
Why?! Why would I do this?! I hate toys! All I do is step on them in the middle of night, or fruitlessly order the children to pick them up off the floor, over and over and over again. There are so many obnoxious toys in this house that I can barely open the front door without a pile of them spilling out onto the sidewalk. All I do, all day long, is walk around my house wishing that there was less stuff in it! And yet as soon as I am at the store, I want to buy all the things.
With this dysfunctional stuff relationship in mind, do you think it was a good idea to give myself permission to start buying Christmas gifts in October? I will give you a hint. No. It was not. Our closet is now almost full of awesome Christmas presents for the children, and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. But I can’t stop! Now I am in gift buying mode! And it is only going to get worse once the actual Christmas shopping season begins! There is nothing that makes me want to buy excessive amounts of gifts like some shiny tinsel and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer playing over the mall speakers.
The whole point of this plan was to buy the same number of gifts, just spread out over three months, instead of one. But I cannot spread out, apparently. All I am doing is somehow enabling myself to buy three times the number of presents. I will spend three times the money, three times the time, and three times as long wrapping things on Christmas Eve. And it builds momentum. I don’t know how to stop it this year. I think it is too late.
And this terrible plan comes with many other complications that I did not anticipate. For instance, I am running out of hiding places. The car trunk might have to be used to hold some of the overflow presents. Maybe I can take some to the choir room at church and hide them under my desk. I could fill some garbage bags with presents and hang them from the tree outside the kitchen window, with a bear trap underneath so no passersby steal the things that I will soon wish were nowhere near my house.
Because Christmas morning will come, and the children will swim down the stairs, through the ocean of presents, and then they will open them all. That is the exact point at which I will suddenly stop being excited about the gifts, and start resenting them. In the box, they are exciting toys. Out of the box, they are more useless crap that we don’t need. The act of opening a gift turns it from Christmas magic, to “stuff.” And we do not need more stuff.
No, we have enough stuff. What we need is more Christmas magic. And gifts under (and around, and over) the tree are not the only way to get Christmas magic. There are plenty of experiences and activities that we can share, to provide warm and happy memories for years to come. And next year I will remember that. Next year I will tell myself that the Christmas shopping season does not start until December 20th. Next year we will focus on the true meaning of the holiday. Next year we will have more joy, and less stuff. But for now, I have to go to Toys R Us to buy more things that I hate. Because Christmas.