Written by David Vogel Tuesday, 05 December 2006 18:00I love this time of year. The night is illuminated with festive lights, garland and ribbons are twisted around every vertical poll imaginable, holiday music blares over every mall sound system, columnists use the word "holiday" instead of "Christmas" so they don't get sued by the ACLU, and television commercials become increasingly more frantic as stores try to outdo the other's sales.
The list is practically endless!
Personally, I'm looking forward to getting together with family, where we'll all gather in the living room, next to a holiday tree, and exchange receipts. Because, let's face it, the only reason most of us buy gifts for anyone is because we were getting a good deal on it.
In fact, this year, my family members are all getting foot ointment from me. Not because they technically need it, but because the price was 60 percent off several weeks ago.
But what it comes down to is that no matter what you get for someone, on sale or not, they won't want it, or it will be the wrong size, or it will be the wrong color, or it will be the wrong BRAND of foot ointment. So it's easier just to wrap all your receipts in pretty paper and hand those out.
Also, for stocking stuffers, it's probably easier just to throw in some loose change, and let the stocking owner go out and get whatever he or she wants.
However, this whole returning-holiday-gifts-business is still a step up from several centuries ago, when all anybody ever did was sit around the holiday tree and exchange glances. At that point in history, the gift-giving idea had not yet been conceived.
Thankfully, this trend was broken two thousand years ago by the Wise "We Three Kings" Men.
But getting back on track, two centuries ago the Wise Men were traveling to see the baby Jesus, by following the star in the west. It was then that the Wise Men realized that they had gone too far, and turned around.
Because of their accidental detour, the Wise Men didn't actually show up to see Jesus until a couple years later, contrary to what is predicted in most holiday pageants.
But they did finally get there, and they presented Jesus with the legendary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And the receipts. (They weren't called "Wise Men" for nothing.)
Without realizing it, the Wise Men had inadvertently started a new holiday tradition, which we all participate in 2,000 years later. This tradition usually begins directly after Thanksgiving.
Just for kicks, my dad and I decided to take part in the notorious Day-After-Thanksgiving sales this year. Actually, Dad wanted a leather coat that one of the Discount Shopping Giants had a really good deal on. We really had no intention of buying anything else.
This is really a shame, because you hate to waste getting up at 4:15 in the morning for a lone leather jacket.
We arrived at the mega-store parking lot at precisely 5 in the a.m. We strode into the store, two men on a mission. Granted, we were two men on a mission who had blood-shot eyes and were incessantly yawning. But this did not detract from our goal: to get the full experience of being a frenzied shopper who is running purely on the adrenaline to get the product before the store runs out.
Not to mention that these shoppers, due to the cold and dry atmosphere, were, at the same time, trying to dislodge mucus buildups the size of Cleveland from their throats.
Upon entering the store, the first thing we came to were flat-screen televisions that were on sale for $65. We didn't need a $65 flat screen TV. So we put one in our cart and pushed it around for a while, just so we could fit in with all the other shoppers who had one.
You have to understand that when put together, my dad and I should definitely be supervised by an adult at all times. You add that with the fact that we both had around only four hours of sleep, and it's probably necessary to call in some sort of military action to make sure things don't get too out of hand.
However, we were both on our best behavior that morning. Dad got his leather jacket. Some lady with an empty cart got the TV we weren't planning to buy. And I got a headache.
But all in all, it was a good experience. It demonstrated the true passion for the holiday that the Wise Men would have wanted: the passion of generosity, the excitement for the season, and the fact that if the ACLU finds this column remotely suspicious, I'm going to send them some foot ointment.
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UFO: In "A Visit From Saint Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clarke Moore, two of Santa's reindeer were originally named Dunder and Blixem, not Donner and Blitzen.