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To The Ghosts of Christmas Past...

Cindy McCartney
By Cindy McCartney
Posted on Dec 04,2007
Filed Under Fashion , Local Style,
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By Cindy McCartney
Owner, Diva Designer Consignment and Other Delights

December is the month of shopping excursions, crowded malls, pickpockets and a lot of emotional stress.  Of course, we should all focus on the “real” meaning  behind the holidays we celebrate, but somehow emotion and stress just seem to take over our consciousness.  And no holiday seems to have as much emotional charge than Christmas.

I used to be crazy about Christmas as a kid, because all I needed to focus on was what Santa was going to leave under the tree and in my stocking.  And buying presents for Mom and Dad and other relatives with my allowance.  The only “stressful” situation happened on Christmas eve into Christmas morning when I would finally be allowed to go downstairs at 5 am….not 3, when I woke up.  The entire month of December was full of anticipation and excitement and lists being sent to the North Pole.  My parents really did a great job of making the holiday completely magical.

As a teenager, I still liked the holidays, because there was such a fun feeling about each holiday party, who would be there, whose friend from (wow…another high school!!!) whom I would meet and have a crush on….but with a little more stress (crush stress—is he going to call?) entering the picture.  After all, would the new boy I was dating get me something for Christmas?  Because, like clockwork,  phone calls came in from my girlfriends on Christmas day asking, “what did he give you?”  Highly annoying and very stress-inducing for a teenager.  I really hated that people would actually ask a question like that!  The interrogation was so annoying that I once broke up with a guy around that time so I didn’t have to deal with being questioned.

December during my college years was cool because of all of the Christmas parties, dances and of course, beer parties (the universal celebration for all occasions—ALWAYS apropos). But the season always coincided with the dreaded mid-terms, which really had a way of killing the “fun” aspect. I remember partying, then studying all night, and in the morning walking into the test ready to collapse. But then I’d take a nap during the day and repeat the process that night. Then there was the obnoxious question looming: What about New Year’s Eve--the magical night of “fabulous” parties, dressing up and romantic midnight kisses? I really think the New Year’s Eve issue was the final straw which threw me down the slippery slope to empathizing with Scrooge because, really, do those movie-ending New Year’s Eves actually exist? I thought so then, until one crushing year when it seemed that my life was pretty much crumbling around me when my New Year’s date sent a telegram---a telegram—(this was prior to faxes and email, of course, but hey, how about the phone???) saying ”unforeseen circumstances” had made it necessary to cancel. Needless to say, that was the end of him, as well as what made that New Year’s Eve and Day completely unenjoyable for me and (I’m sure) for my poor parents. Cinderella, forced to stay home from the ball, stressed to the max. Tears and more tears.

After college, there were great holidays as well as some not as great. It seemed then as if holiday parties were excuses for people to do the stupid, completely ill-advised things they had only thought about previously.  One year, after a day of fighting about going to a New Year’s Eve party with my then-husband, I finally begrudgingly agreed to go to said party. After the “unforeseen circumstance” New Year, I felt as if no good could ever come out of that night. And I was right.  One of his “friends”-- who happened to be a woman—made major moves on him (he “didn’t see that”) to a point where I walked out at about the time she plunked herself in his lap. I drove home in our car and didn’t speak to him for a week (…just one of the many reasons he’s my “then” husband…) At another party one of my friends’ husbands very unexpectedly made moves on me… It’s as if all behaviors get a free pass during the last month of the year. Maybe that is how New Year’s resolutions began?  Also, I was working in the retail world for fragrance companies over these years, and in retail, the “holiday season” began before Halloween; actually it began in September. By the time Christmas arrived we were planning for Valentine’s Day (another holiday I never was crazy about…but that is another column….!) For the last four months of the year I spent my work life ensuring that my staff was selling our products so we didn’t have to return the goods to our company. 65-70% of the year’s business was expected to happen during that one month…this expectation resulted in a physically and mentally draining fall. It never failed that I would be so exhausted on Christmas Eve that I would be sick the entire holiday week.

I have to say that the last few years have been some of the best holiday seasons since I was a kid. I’m married to my “now husband” and we’ve had some very quiet, fun Christmases and low key New Years Eves (on some of which we didn’t even make midnight). Since 2000 I’ve had years of having a lot of Christmas energy and others which kind of come and go. I have always said that it would be good to have Christmas every other year so that we could really enjoy and savor it and have a couple of years to look forward to and plan the next one. I have a lot of friends who are real Christmas nuts—one of my best friends has a wreath on the grille of her car (I had not even gotten into the car when I got the ultimatum that I’d better not say a word about it!!). These friends definitely know my feelings about the season, and they always try to pull out the after-ghost-visit Scrooge within me. I give them credit for their love of the season and their persistence; I also admire my parents’ unwavering enthusiasm for Christmas—they do a complete home changeover in November in which they put out all of their great Christmas “stuff”. It always looks so completely festive.  When we go there at Christmas the little nativity scene in the living room is my job to arrange.  All of the Kings and Wise Men, the angels, the animals and of course Joseph, Mary and the Baby. One year I was really crazed with work and had not had a chance to arrange the figures. I got a “letter” from all of the statues in the nativity telling me that they were pretty tired just standing there waiting to be placed. And they all “signed” it…King, King, King, Angel, Angel, Shepherd…you get the idea.  My Dad had written it. It was so funny and it really snapped me out of being so involved in my work, making me take time to enjoy the season. I still have the letter. Small, unexpected moments like that are really the memorable ones.   

Last year my store was decorated in every nook and cranny; it looked great, complete with a pink-light-laden tree trimmed with hanging shoe and Eiffel Tower ornaments. The down side of all of this was when the decorations had to come down. Not so great.  So this year we are going for a minimalist look…just enough festivity to say we like the season and want to do something, but we are really glad we don’t have to spend a day dismantling it. This year we are going for some untraditional ways to say “Happy Holidays” by changing things up a little…our store music mix is a pretty eclectic one…we have jazz, reggae, latin, country, classical, classics and even dogs barking “Jingle Bells”.  Something for everyone. (Although I never realized just how few actual Christmas songs existed until I was so desperate for variety I recorded a version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” featuring Donald Duck and Goofy—that one was quickly deleted from the mix…). So far I am still tolerating the Chipmunks. I have simplified my gift list and try to do more things during the year for the special people in my life rather than giving gifts only at Christmas while under pressure to find something “perfect”. 

I guess I am not a complete Scrooge. Seriously, I don’t think that the spirit of the season is really measured by the amount of décor someone has, the height of their Christmas tree, or the quantity of the gifts they’ve gotten. I suppose all of the experiences we’ve had during this time of year make up the tapestry of what we remember—some of which are fond memories, some are similar to the “unforeseen circumstance” saga. I admit (don’t tell my friends!!) that there is a special feeling in the air which has absolutely nothing to do with a midnight madness sale at the Leesburg Outlets. Though I do keep that in mind, the holidays are a force to deal with on so many levels that they can’t help but be measured by our experiences during them. How about you?  Why not write in to Local Kicks and let us know your feelings on the matter? Hurry, though, it’s only a matter of a few short weeks ‘til we’re bombarded with pressure about Valentine’s Day!!!



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