Have a very happy after-Christmas

Still, the part I got right was an easy prediction to make, and that’s the secret: I always go with the obvious. I suppose that’s how psychics work, too: “A movie star will die next year! A politician will be involved in scandal! A major disaster will strike! I’ll injure myself while doing home repair work!”

Gee, ya think?

The next key to my predictions is to make them so far in advance that everyone will forget by the time they don’t happen. In keeping with what appeared to be shaping up as a Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton Presidential dynasty, I predicted that Chelsea Clinton would be President in 2050. Likely? Unlikely? Who knows? If I’m still having coherent thoughts at that point I’ll be very surprised.

My latest prediction, made about two months ago: Indiana will have a snowy winter. I based that on the fact that I’m doing a lot of driving, and Murphy’s Law prevails. Just the same, it’s a fair prediction that during winter in Indiana … snow will fall.

It’s too easy. It’s like making fun of politicians – there’s just no challenge.

While thinking over what to write about instead, I came up with an idea so brilliant in its simplicity that I’ll be a shoo-in for the next Nobel Peace Prize, or something more meaningful like Albion’s man of the year. I call it:

After-Christmas.

Once the holidays are over, what do you have to look forward to? Nothing. In fact, there’s only one thing standing between New Year’s Day and spring, and by then I’m so deep into winter depression that Valentine’s Day is just another pound of chocolate.

Yet some people want the holidays to be over quickly, because they’ve become too darn stressful. Decorating (tangled Christmas lights!), special meals (who made stuffing and cranberries a tradition?), shopping (what’s that agonized scream? Oh, it’s my VISA card). Whether we like seeing our distant relatives or not, making the trip or setting up the spare bedroom is a stress all its own, and don’t get me started on the commercialism.

Too late – I started. Special times are, by definition, special. If the holidays are spread out over a third of the year, they’re not as special, are they? Yes, I’m looking at you, chain stores. Someday I’ll step into Wal-Mart in mid-September to discover they gave up pretending, and dressed the plastic Santa’s in Bermuda shorts and flowered shirts.

Let’s review: Christmas is too commercial, too long, too stressful, too expensive. What can be done about this?

Nothing. That gaudily decorated ship has sailed: The holiday season will continue to be all of those things. I maintain that when it’s over we need some fun time that doesn’t involve shoveling the large amount of snow I correctly predicted we’ll have this year. (Wait and see.)

And so I bring you: After-Christmas.

It’s critically important not to celebrate After-Christmas while taking decorations down, returning gifts, dealing with the dried up old tree, or any other stressful activities. If you like having decorations, leave them up during After-Christmas. If you don’t, take them down first, then celebrate.

If you’re not religious, then it’s not a religious holiday. If you are, celebrate it, as, say, Jesus’ first birthday party, or you can call it After-Hanukkah or After-whatever-the-heck-you-want.

If you’re in a group that’s a mix of religions, or of the religious and non-religious, and as long as nobody’s threatening to kill anyone else – let it go. Respect the opinions of others and keep your mouth shut.

There will be no gift giving. Totally not the point. This is a gift you’re giving to yourselves.

Here’s how After-Christmas works:

You declare a day to be After-Christmas. Doesn’t matter what day. If you want to have your family around you, declare it a few weeks in advance and have everyone bring in a dish – good old-fashioned carry-in. Nobody gets stuck cooking the whole meal.

If you want to be around your friends, gather your friends together. If they can’t make it because of their family After-Christmas dinner, schedule your party for another day. That’s the beauty of After-Christmas: have it whenever you want. We’ll be okay until the feds grab it up to give themselves another three day weekend.

If you’re a loner and are happier by yourself – take a day off. Read a book. Read my book, thank you, or take a long bath, or have a little wine and your favorite cut of meat. Or, if you’re a vegetarian, your favorite cut of, um, salad.

Speaking of which, make it clear that people should bring what they like to eat. Don’t stick someone with bringing the fruitcake; fruitcake isn’t a food, it’s a biological weapon. If nobody likes green bean casserole but it’s Aunt Irma’s special recipe, kindly ask Aunt Irma if she’d prefer to make coffee cake, this time. (Personally, I prefer the casserole.) Everybody should end up with at least a few dishes they like.

If, after the meal, the sports nuts find some game or race they want to watch – let ‘em. That’s their fun. The rest of you move to the kitchen for charades, or Monopoly, or indoor tackle football, which I assure you is lots of fun until someone gets hurt, and sometimes after that.

See, the beauty of After-Christmas is that there are no rules: It’s just people who like to get together, getting together. No special decorating. No gift shopping. No feeling that some particular special thing needs to be done. It’s just like an old-fashioned get-together of the type we used to do before the Internet and television, with a name tacked on.

Don’t we deserve that one day of fun? So happy After-Christmas, everyone.

That should hold us until March.

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