HELEN LANG: Showing the spirit of Christmas

I don’t want you to get too excited, so I’ll mention that Christmas is fast approaching.

I don’t want you to get too excited, so I’ll mention that Christmas is fast approaching, which is enough to put the fear of Christmas shopping into the heart of the average person.

You’ll need a list, of course and it’s a lengthy one. There is always the possibility of quarreling with relatives, so you can cross their names off your list but it’s a bit embarrassing to open their present to you, to find they have given you an expensive gift that you obviously don’t deserve. You can try to console yourself with the idea “that it’s the thought that counts, not the price of the gift.” And we thought that nasty man “Scrooge” was a thing of the past, only to find you are now regarded as the Scrooge of the family by the rest of the crew.

What a shock! You have always considered yourself as the soul of generosity. Why, only last week you put a whole quarter into a beggar’s cup. I did wonder why he laughed hysterically as he spat on that shining coin. Good manners seem to be a thing of the past, don’t they?

If you still send Christmas cards — and I hope you do, adding a bit of your news so your family is aware you have “won the lottery,” “bought a new car,” “are moving to California,” “have come down with the mumps,” and so on. It’s just a smidgin of news of what’s going on in your life, so they know you are still thinking of them (occasionally).

It’s interesting to see the way habits seem to change. Where everyone used to send cards to friends, now it’s  almost rare, which is a pity. Have they just forgotten us? Died without warning? Moved to Australia? Are in prison for robbing a bank? Run off with a neighbour’s wife? All sorts of possibilities, but actually I understand they are just in Vancouver at a wedding, so maybe we’ll get a card from them this year in the middle of December. Let’s wait and see before we send one to them. No card from them? So we can just forget them, they aren’t really friends at all.

Oh dear! It makes me sad and they probably won’t even notice that they didn’t get a card from us. At least we will not only save buying them a card, but save an envelope and a stamp as well. Maybe we could even go out for a hot dog on the money we’ve saved by not sending them a Christmas card.

No, that’s not showing the spirit of Christmas. I’m not going to follow the unfortunate habit of careless neglect of friends and neighbours. Friends are way too important in one’s life and maybe they will smile happily when they see our card with its message of loving friendship — and perhaps phone to suggest we meet. Now that is a happy thought. Please excuse me while I look up their phone number. I’ll leave it beside the telephone so I don’t forget them in all the fuss and shenanigans that go with getting everything done before that happy occasion.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.