It could be really easy to become overwhelmed by Christmas with all the things that a person ought to do, along with the guilt feelings for not getting them done on time. I’m not sure just when the business world turns on the Christmas season, and I’m not even sure when it ends. I am sure that I get swept into the frenzy of the season whether I want to or not.

For me, the first encounter came this year with the arrival of Christmas “Angels” from the local Food Pantry. These little angel-shaped cards are numbered and carry a brief suggestion of a gift that some poor little kid would like to find under the tree on Christmas morning. As the angel distributor for my church, I have the job of signing up the “gift-givers” and then collecting the results later. I prefer to wait until after Thanksgiving but this year I gave in to the demands of the public and handed the cards out the week before Thanksgiving. I guess some people like to get an early start but, at least, my first potentially overwhelming crisis had been resolved.

That brought to mind the subject of Christmas cards. I know it is best to shop early for cards before all the “good” ones are gone from the shelves. I have always enjoyed the TV specials sponsored by the Hallmark Company and the stories now shown on the Hallmark Channel. Besides I have felt obliged “to care enough to give the very best.” That used to be their theme and their cards have always been very nice. The company was developed privately by the Hall family of Kansas City, Missouri, and the cards were designed and printed right there on paper made from local, well-managed forests in the middle of our country.

I looked over the variety of boxed cards on the shelf at our local Brockway Drug Store and selected a beautiful blue card. After I have put the last card in the mailbox and sent it on its way, I looked at the box and discovered that the cards were actually made in China. Further research revealed that most cards are still done in Kansas City but specialty-decorated requiring hand labor have been outsourced to China, due primarily to competition from other companies and the now-popular e-cards over the Internet.

We have also received bundles of beautiful cards from a variety of non-profit organizations hoping to entice us to use the cards and send them a nice donation. I have a problem with using these cards unless I truly plan to send back a check. I understand the reasoning behind cards saying “Happy Holidays” and those with just Santa Claus or other less-religious pictures; but I prefer to stick with cards that show “The real story of the meaning for Christmas.”

The filling out and mailing of Christmas cards had been on hold until this week and, according to all the postal people who were being interviewed on television, “Time is running out!” First to be done were the cards mailed across the country. Meanwhile cards began to appear in our mailbox coming from others parts of the country, and some from early birds right around Brockway, DuBois, and Brookville. I do enjoy opening beautiful cards that say something like, “May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with peace and happiness.” followed with a handwritten note, “Hope this card finds you both doing okay!” and signed by somebody like “Ginny and Dick.”

I look at the artwork, read the messages closely, think about the sender for a moment, and then tape the cards to the glass doors of our bookcase where we can enjoy them for several weeks. To me, the more favorite cards to receive are the ones with a page of personal information inserted. I know that not everyone agrees with me on this. As a matter of fact, several years ago when I also mentioned my enjoyment with Christmas notes, I actually received a card in the mail saying, “Who do you think has time for all that garbage!”

Well, I like it. This year as usual, I prepared an insert for our cards entirely with photos showing all about our wonderful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With my Christmas letter created, printed, and copied for insertion, all of our Christmas cards went into the mail and another overwhelming crisis was resolved. It was equivalent to 21,000 words since each of the 21 pictures is supposed to equal at least 1,000 words.

What about decorations, both indoor and out? We have the opportunity to put up thousands of lights if we choose each year, but this year the decorations may only be inside. We missed the best chance for outdoor decorations when we had a few nice days and then the world outside became snowy and cold. I do like the new LED lights that are longer lasting and I don’t have to spend a lot of valuable time trying to figure out which bulb is burned out causing the whole line to go out together.

Perhaps lamps in the window will just have to do this year.

That brings us to the Christmas tree which we used to bring in from the back forty! This has always been a problem. The trees that I find are usually too wide to fit in the corner reserved for the tree, or too tall for the room (no problem there that a little sawing won’t fix), or the branches are spaced wrong with a big hole on one side, or the needles are too prickly that it stings the hand to even touch them, or it’s just plain wrong – the wrong kind of tree. My wife solved the problem. She picked the tree out of the window at the hardware store and now we can just bring it out of the attic each year.

We had our church Christmas party last Friday evening with a pot-luck dinner. Then we sang “Happy Birthday to Jesus” and had cake and ice cream in His honor. After a few stories and games, we exchanged “white elephant” gifts with a sort of lottery plan involving trading the prizes around for a while before settling on who opens what. My problem is that I don’t have any white elephants, or elephants of any color for that matter.

Everything in my possession is valuable – at least to me. I have to find a gift that is inexpensive but cute or clever; so it’s off to town on the morning of the party. Sooner or later, I come home with a perfect gift and I’m ready for the party.

We have now reached the week of Christmas with the big day next Sunday. What is left to be done? Christmas presents must be placed under the tree for all the family to open on Christmas day! I’ve heard some people who claim to have their shopping all done by now, and the presents all wrapped and ready. You won’t catch me doing that! I work best under pressure. I like to wait until a lot of the store stuff goes on sale just before Christmas. You can save a lot of money then, and besides, there aren’t as many things on the shelf so it will be easier to make the selections.

It is my wish for my readers, that each and everyone have the very best Christmas possible under your own unique circumstances with a minimal number of crisis events where you feel overwhelmed by the concerns for family and friends. Merry Christmas to all!

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