Top things to avoid during holidays

This column appeared in the December 8, 2010 edition.

Mary Jane Owen


It’s that time again, a time of real joy, excitement and making merry. For the Christian world, it is a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, but other major religions celebrate the season for their own traditional reasons and customs. In fact the celebration of the winter solstice is an ancient tradition that fits nicely with the other reasons for the season. Unfortunately some things can and often do inhibit the good things about this season. We all have those issues that bother and/or concern us. Of course, since we are all, thank goodness, unalike, those peevish things vary according to our respective perceptions and preferences. The list below belies my personal idiosyncratic peculiarities. I do not expect common agreement, but for the record, I publicly state my top peeves for this Christmas season:

1. Christmas letters! My habit is to dispose of these as soon as they arrive in my mailbox. These letters, in my viewpoint, are obvious exercises in vanity and self aggrandizement. I have to wonder who has my name on their Christmas card list that thinks I give one hoot about their genius grandchildren, presumably already enrolled at Harvard, their trips to Dollywood, Vegas, Branson, or some other less imaginative place. Some letters which, when I first began receiving and actually reading them, included references to having “lost Grandma”. I always wonder where on earth Grandma is. I suspect they mean that she’s dead. If that is the case, just say so. Why was I not contacted earlier about this event? Grandma was very likely somebody that I had known and loved as a child.

2. Secret Santa practices. These silly and frivolous traditions turn me off and usually my refusal to participate in such stuff means that I am accused of being Ms. Scrooge. Admittedly I have actually been involved in this little “to do” until I thought about it. Money spent on these little surprises is money that can be put to far better use by making contributions to the homeless, the abused human and animal or to some worthy charity where they really can make a difference. Frankly I think the real reason for this silly practice is to get stuff that can be “regifted.” As it were.

3. Drunks driving anywhere, anytime, but somehow, holidays give normally sane drivers excuses to over imbibe. So much has been written and said about this that I will not belabor the point. Please, if you must drive, have an appointed “Designated Driver” and have one who isn’t even close to a buzz.

4. Drunks at parties. Those who choose this time to behave in ways that are not characteristic are especially obnoxious. The worst are the men who, knowing that you are a SF, are just dying to accommodate your perceived “needs”. The same goes for the women who use all their feminine wiles to “hit up” on their best friends’ husbands! Let’s just say I do hope upon awakening the next day, they have a healthy reminder in the form of a horrible hangover.

5. Those among us who forget the “reason for the season”. You do not have to be a Christian to know that most every holiday tradition at the heart of this delightful time of the year is based on kindness and appreciation for others. Over indulgence and excessive spending is not really a very good idea. Consider how you can celebrate and make merry while thinking of others and maintaining sanity.

Finally, I want to end by shouting out to the officials of our government agencies that have “decked the halls’ in all of our towns and communities. Even in a time of economic stress, things do look festive and activities for the young and old are planned just for the pleasure of participation. So get out and celebrate, extend your best wishes to all. Be nice to your least favorite family member and exercise as much patience as you can muster. I realize that is challenging in some cases, but ‘tis the season!

Mary Jane Owen lis a veteran educator. She's as avid Braves fan, reads, writes, and gardens.