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I'm trying to pin this down. Christmas is, far and away, most people's favorite holiday. In fact, in the pantheon of holidays, it laps the field. It's the reigning champ, celebrated by malls, schools, governments, the odd tow truck company (at least when I was attending the Rogers Christmas Parade on a regular basis) and, OK, a lot of places of worship worldwide.

Kids love it, men and women love it, old people love it ... wait, that's Apollo Creed from the first "Rocky' movie. But you get the point. Christmas is almost everyone's No. 1, the only good reason for December, enough of a force to keep "Santa Baby," "Blue Christmas" and "All I Want For Christmas Is You" on the radio and the last, best hope of fruitcake as anything more than a dessert version of haggis.

With all that going for it, why is it that, periodically, if you listen close (or ask a direct question), people will often express just the slightest pique at this holly-est of holidays? Or come right out and tell you they hate it and just want it to be over?

And why? I mean, who doesn't love the lights and the decorations and the pageantry and the time spent with family and all the fun? And the eggnog. Which makes most of that other stuff ... better.

After an exhaustive survey of, I don't know, a few people who seemed pretty typical (though don't tell them I said that), I can say with zero degree of accuracy but a great deal of certainty (which makes me your average American voter) that it's one word: shopping.

Look, I enjoy shopping as much as the next guy. Provided, of course, the next guy really hates shopping and is just glad the mall has good Wi-Fi. But the universal fly in everyone's wassail this time of year appears to be the hunting and gathering of all those packages under the tree. Or, that Santa brings, depending on your age and level of commitment to the idea of just having stuff "show up" on Christmas morning.

Seems this time of year we all fall prey to the great and unfortunate truths of Christmas shopping. To wit ...

  1. When your spouse says "I don't want anything for Christmas," that is a bald-faced lie large enough to get him or her on the "Naughty" list. They want something. They just don't want to have to tell you what it is. Because you should know.

  2. Younger children, on the other hand, are incredibly specific. Listen to them. If you ask them what they want, they'll tell you the color, size, manufacturer and shelf location of exactly what their heart's desire (at least at this moment) is. Ignore them at your peril. If you do, keep filming because you're about to be a star on the "Jimmy Kimmel Show."

  3. Older children are, in most cases, less specific but more expensive. Which necessitates this guide to those of you who are, like me, of a certain age. Teenagers have learned the "shoot for the moon, land in the stars" strategy of gift requesting. When you ask, expect their initial offer to be outrageous (a new car) followed by a pretty-much-but-not-OUTrageous request (a new phone). Also, if it involves initials, it's probably a video game console of some sort. Just go to the Electronics section and ask someone wearing skinny jeans.

  4. If you're looking for help, your children's significant others are no good to you. Because, see No. 1 ...

  5. Anything worth asking for is probably worth just getting yourself and saving the disappointment. Which explains why, periodically, Santa brought my father a new set of golf clubs. Amazingly, the jolly old elf knew exactly the brand and degree of shaft stiffness and composition.

The shopping areas are too crowded, they're out of the right size in tops but not bottoms, it's back-ordered till February and if you order online, chances are good you'll be providing a merry Christmas for that creep who keeps cruising through the neighborhood, looking for packages on the doorstep.

And yet, every year, we gather as families to celebrate the season and our love for each other. And to enjoy the happiness of the children and appreciate that someone loved us so much they were willing to brave all that it entailed to get us that bright orange sweater or digital nutcracker. Which made it just what we wanted.

Because it is.

Commentary on 12/15/2017

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