Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 8, 2002


A few candid observations about the Christmas season


            Once again our society is going nuts. We do it every year.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, our world looks and feels like an insane asylum. We find ways to make December not a wonderful time but an agonizing time of the year.

            Eventually most of us will cry with exasperation, “I will be so glad when Christmas is over!”

            Why is this so? I have been mulling this over, so allow me to share with you a few of my honest observations about the Christmas season.

            First, this holiday season causes pain in our pocketbooks. We dread the fact that dear old Santa Claus had conned us into believing that we must buy things we cannot afford. We justify our excessive spending with the flimsy excuse that “After all, it’s Christmas.”

            The funny thing is that we go in debt to buy gifts for our children. Three weeks later those gifts are broken or discarded. Then 20 years later the kids will complain, “You blew it, Mom and Dad. You gave me gifts when I was growing up and all I ever wanted was for you to spend more time with me.”

            If you value your life, do not test that logic this Christmas. OK, go ahead and try it. Do not buy your kids gifts; just tell them you knew that what they really wanted was more of your time. So the only thing you put under the tree was your calendar with some days checked off for them.

            Guess what. This will be one Christmas you will never forget!

            We remember that in years past it has sometimes taken us until July to pay off the pile of debts we accumulated at Christmas. We do not relish going through that again. Still, we will not want to act like old Scrooge so once again we will go singing into Christmas: “Hi, ho, hi, ho, it’s into debt we go.”

            I can see debt coming at me like a fast train. Apparently I will have to buy my wife another diamond this Christmas. She has seen so many TV commercials that she has taken the bait. A diamond alone will prove my love.

 Shucks, I don’t understand why she can’t just be happy with the rock I bought her 51 yeas ago. Why, if she holds it in just the right position in the sunlight, you can actually see it. I do hope she does not lose it again. A few years back that precious diamond fell out of its set, and I had to use a magnifying glass to find it.

            Second, we suspect somebody is lying to us about the economy. Everything but our garbage cans is decorated to beat the band, lights are twinkling everywhere, stores are full of shoppers, yet we are supposed to believe that our country is on the verge of another great depression.

            I think I have figured out why the stock market is down. The Big Mules of business are using the money we invested in the stock market to build more and bigger stores. Soon I expect to see a Super Wal-Mart every ten miles down the highway.

            Are people having a hard time financially? Before you answer, think about the last time you bravely risked walking in a shopping mall parking lot.

            Last Saturday I was almost hit by not one but three SUVs before I could get inside the store. I was so unnerved that I insisted on having a security guard to walk me back to my car when I finished shopping.

            Third, standing in line is going to be the death of us yet. Can you believe how long you have to wait in line just to pay a clerk for your stuff? I waited 45 minutes to pay for $22 work of groceries. I had 21 items so I could not get in the “less than 20 items” line where I would only have to wait 35 minutes to pay.

            Yes, Santa has me making a list like everybody else. However, I am also making a list of stores I will not go in again. I figure if you can build a store as big as a football stadium, then you have the money to hire enough clerks to collect the money of your customers in a timely fashion.

            Something is wrong when it takes more time to stand in line to pay than it does to walk through a store and load a cart with the stuff you came to buy.

            Fourth, the cost of Christmas trees is absurd. Yet like most obedient husbands I try to provide what my sweet wife wants. Every year she wants a taller tree. We had an 18-foot tree last year; this year she wants a 38-foot Virginia Fir tree. Unless I can talk her into buying a 20-footer, I will have to hire a tractor-trailer to haul it home.

            Churches try to help us not feel so guilty about the price. A church or a Boy Scout Troop will sell you a $100 tree for $90. The profit is going for a good cause, so we are supposed to feel good about spending as much for a tree as we used to spend for a month’s groceries.

            Actually few things about Christmas are more ludicrous than the Christmas tree. We pay an exorbitant price for a dead tree. We bring it home and water it, knowing all the time it is dead. The day after Christmas we throw the tree away. However, someone recycles it, or uses it in a pond as a bream bed, and that relieves us of some of our guilt.

            The water we use to make the dead tree look good is spilled onto the carpet. So the ultimate price of the tree is far greater than the amount we paid the Scouts for it. But, hey, the tree is pretty once it is adorned with 400 strings of lights, so let us go buy another dead tree.

            That crazy time called Christmas is here again. My advice: be calm, stay cool, stay home, shell some pecans, and whatever you do, do not become cynical. After all, all God ever wanted was for us to pay attention to the first six letters of the word Christmas.

            Now go answer that knock at the door. It’s old Rudolph wanting to know if you want to come out and play today.

            Jingle bells. Yeah.