Ensuring your happy holidays

Just check a few of these things off your list

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 4:59 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — The holidays always seem to come too soon and leave too early.

One minute you’re wailing that the stores are playing “Jingle Bell Rock” at Halloween, the next you’re whimpering that it’s Jan. 2 and you never really felt the holiday spirit.

By “you,” I mean the holiday procrastinator, the person who lets December slip away without taking time — making time — to do the things that make the holidays fun.

Nothing pokes a stick into a procrastinator’s hide like a good to-do list, and we’re going to make it easy.  You don’t even have to make the list. We’ll make it for you. All you have to do is what’s on the list.

As a reformed procrastinator, I promise that if you can accomplish even two items, your holidays will be happier.

1) Decorate.

Who are those people whose houses are decked in colorful bulbs and fresh green garlands the day after Thanksgiving? They are not procrastinators, that’s who. But don’t let them intimidate you.

A full-blown Christmas tree may not be your style, but you can put an electric candle in a window. Or a wreath on the door. Or a fragrant fir branch on the mantelpiece. Less may not be more, but it can be plenty.

2) Take a walk and admire other people’s decorations.

The lights, bows, fake icicles and hideous inflatable Frostys put on display by the manic decorators are a gift to everyone else. Take a stroll and be entertained, even if it’s just to think, “Who are these people?”

3) Give away some money.

That stack of envelopes that arrive with the junk mail keeps growing. The food depository, the mental health agency, the hospice, the homeless shelter. Pick one. Or two. You don’t have to give money to them all, but one of the best ways to make the holidays feel right is to give something to strangers in need.

4) Buy Christmas cards.

You’re still looking for the best Christmas cards ever. Clever cards. Unique cards. Cards that are works of art but not priced that way. Or maybe you’re waiting to find the time to make your own perfect cards.

Perfection is the devil’s word. Think perfection, and you’ll never get it done. So buy some cards, any cards. No one will remember what your card looked like anyway.

5) Send the Christmas cards.

Do you have a backlog of unsent cards? Cards you got around to buying — congrats! — but never mailed because you couldn’t find your address book, or stamps, or the perfect words?

Remember: Cards don’t count unless you send them. And if you’re mailing to the city of Chicago, don’t wait until Dec. 23. A suburban Chicago woman who sent cards in late November reports that while her cards have arrived everywhere else, they haven’t arrived at the homes of her city friends.

6) Do something new.

Go see the holiday lights at the Brookfield Zoo or the Lincoln Park Zoo. Or go to the Friday evening caroling at the Bean in Millennium Park. The holidays are built on ritual — meaning on repetition — but novelty is a great holiday spice.

7) Make the connection.

Are you estranged from someone you care about? Or is there someone you’ve simply neglected for too long? Make the call. Send the card. Go have coffee. The holidays are the perfect chance to make peace.

Relax. Savor the satisfaction of a to-do list vanquished. And if you’re wondering why the list doesn’t include shopping? Because shopping is rarely what leaves you feeling you’ve done the holidays right.

Mary Schmich is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She can be contacted at mschmich@tribune.com.

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