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Remain calm



Children coerced into good behavior by threats of a dark, meaningless Christmas in which one of God’s very own saints skips their house because he, like their parents, has had it up to here with their acting out. This season’s hottest toy squirreled away in some out-of-reach and never-seen corner of the house, possibly acquired in a Black Friday knife fight.

Yep. It’s Christmas. Even for those of us who love the holiday season — and who may or may not have had the lights strung up and turned on by Nov. 10 — it’s easy to see why some people hate the last two months of every year. Since when do we celebrate the birth of Jesus — if you’re of the Christian persuasion — by stampeding through a Walmart like the bulls of Pamplona? Must we now greet winter by ritually sacrificing a store security guard so that we can get our kid a toy that he or she will take mere weeks to break?

For example, last year the following altercation was witnessed in a crowded parking lot: A woman with two carts full of groceries was unable to squeeze herself, her brood and her purchases between her car and the one next to it, both of which were parked evenly within the painted lines. Spying the owner of the other car, she screeched, “You’re parked too damn close!” The owner of said car turned and, in his meanest and most awful voice, screamed, “Happy birthday, Jesus!” The holidays are stressful. Like our families, they stress us out because we love them and we want everyone to be OK. We want the kids to get exactly what they want on Christmas morning because we remember what it felt like when we did. We want to cook Christmas dinner the way Grandma did because we miss her and want to remember her. For some of us, the holidays were a deeply happy time full of beautiful memories, so get your hand off that last can of cranberry sauce or I will cut it off and take it with me when I leave this store!

But here’s the thing. Put yourself in Jesus’ shoes for just a moment. (This works even if you’re not a Christian.) Would you want people celebrating your birthday by wrestling each other to the ground over the last Tickle Me Elmo? It’s possible our holiday madness is fueled by the best of our intentions, and that those intentions are leading us directly to holiday hell.

Perhaps Christmas in America 2010 should come with a warning label like a prescription: “May cause unsustainable levels of credit card debt, aggressive behavior, uncontrollable weeping, weight gain and a complete lack of perspective.”

The holidays are a good thing, especially for the economy. So shop — locally, if possible. Reward your kids for their good behavior, but model it for them as well. If you want them to grow up with fond Christmas memories, teach them what the season is about — holding tightly to loved ones, serving those who aren’t as fortunate, being nice, keeping warm, Charlie Brown. And God bless us every one.

Nathan Gunter is an Oklahoma City-based writer who apologizes to the lady he yelled at in the parking lot last year. You can follow him on Twitter at @okaycitynate.

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