Here’s a sincere and hopeful Christmas suggestion designed to reduce stress and improve holiday festivities for all of us this year.

To: All of you who feel the need to shop for everyone you know, used to know, or might know in the future, whether you start purchasing gifts in April from a carefully prepared Excel spreadsheet, rush around the last week like some insane Tasmanian Devil, or visit the 24 hour drug store Christmas morning to purchase guilt ridden, desperation presents for those who surprised you.

From: Those who don’t need any more scented candles, books about our hobbies, vocation, or sports allegiances, or decorative wine stoppers. People who enjoy the fellowship and good cheer of the holiday season, revel in remembering childhood events and long dead relatives, drink to close friends who have no need of anything more than a heartfelt hug, a smile, and a free drink.

Please. Stop.

We have turned Christmas into a stress filled nightmare where no one is happy except for Wal Mart, all of us spend way too much money, and unwanted Christmas gifts are piling up in hall closets like clothes we are no longer able to wear.

Get something for the kids, sure; that’s what Christmas as we celebrate it is designed to be. Watch their mouths open in wonder and their little eyes sparkle with the magic associated with the season. Seeing a bicycle or Red Ryder BB gun under a lighted tree on Christmas morning is a top ten moment for most of us until we are Promoted to Glory.

But aren’t we going overboard when we start getting things for our adult friends, relatives, and even those who we meet on a regular basis. Who started the practice of buying a Christmas gift for the mailman? You know it was some retailer. Same with co-workers, distant cousins, and friends you see frequently but would never spend a vacation with.

First of all, no one is smart enough to give everyone on the list the perfect present. I know you think you are the exception, but trust me, you are not. If they are of legal age, have spending money, and don’t already have it, there is probably a good reason.

Buying guilt-ridden gifts for others is a double edged sword; not only do you stick them with something they will never use, you are going to get something just as useless in return. Now everyone has to spend New Year’s morning re-arranging the hall closet so everything fits.

Let’s try this next year. Gather all of the people you feel pressure to spend money on, open some drinks, make some cookies and crab spread, and announce you are going to give a food bank, local hospice center, animal support group, or arts association the total sum you would be spending on the entire group. No one has to rush around in horrible traffic to retaliate; no one has to feign delight; no one has to make room for more crap. Everybody wins. Especially the charities that desperately need the help every year.

This is a painless, sensible, and cost efficient way to celebrate Christmas. And while we’re at it, quit whining about the true meaning of Christmas. Every aspect of this holiday is borrowed or stolen from another celebration. Just because your family celebrates one way doesn’t make it the correct way. Stop acting so sensitive and let’s all make this a memorable Christmas season. You will be surprised how painless this can be.

If my plan doesn’t work, we’ll change back in 2013, assuming the Mayans miscalculated.

Image: licensed by at @ Tran The Vuong.
Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.