Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas

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It's December, and Christmas is coming. But my friend Nancy is prepared. She's attacking Christmas with military precision, gift ideas formatted in an Excel spreadsheet. My friend May used a data analysis program to compare gift prices, and mail merge to send personalized cards, printed in a handwriting font.

May's planned her calendar tightly and blocked 40 minutes Tuesday to set up the Christmas tree, and exactly two hours Sunday to bake snowflake cookies. Christmas, she said, done and done.

My friend Jim found his ladder to string lights on the roof, and looked exhausted at the prospect of installing light-up plastic Santas on the lawn.

And, listening, I keep thinking "Where is the joy? How did the holidays go from being a lot of fun to being a lot of work?" In an over-scheduled era, the season to be jolly seems more to-do list than tra-la-la-la-la; not celebrated, but efficiently checked off.

In my memories, Christmas wasn't approached with such grim determination, a get-this-over-with list of obligations efficiently managed using color-coded markers.


It's a holiday, not a data-driven consulting project. Christmas should be disorganized. Christmas should be finding that last-minute gift in a store packed with shoppers in coats and scarves. Christmas is nick-of-time decorating, day-before gift wrapping, up-all-night assembling bicycles, I-miss-you scribbles in cards you know will never get there in time.

The real present of Christmas lies in just being present, taking one merry moment in our busy lives to loosen up, embrace the joyous random chaos of life, realize everything doesn't need to be perfect, but to simply let your heart be light.

Yes, Santa is checking his list twice, but you don't need to. Stop the strategic planning. It's Christmas. Cut yourself some heavenly peace.
Have yourself a messy little Christmas.
With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.