The modern yuletide is a holiday in paradoxical stranglehold. A person, we are told, is supposed to embrace Christmas as a time to reconnect with friends and family, illustrate personal affection through the exchange of gifts, eat, drink and be merry and generally enjoy life. Or simply recognize that life should be enjoyed.
However, the smothering effect Dec. 25 has on society has made it nearly impossible to actually enjoy the holiday. In December, everything accelerates. Work schedules are compressed and overloaded in order to both meet the demands of seasonal business (store sales, big year-end magazine issues, holiday travel) and to clear time to actually take a few days off around Christmas. The result is that we're all driven nearly crazy and massively distracted right up until Christmas Eve itself. We have twice the amount of work to do: shopping must be completed, decorations have to be put out, menus must be planned and prepared for, deadlines must be met by Dec. 23 or before. We race through December at a breakneck pace in order to sieze the maybe 24 hours of rest and recreation at the month's finish line.
This is no way to enjoy the season.
And so, a bit of advice for whoever wants to take it. In recent years, I've taken care to set aside a slow day sometime in December, a day off in which I divest myself of all pressing concerns and actually do some of the pleasing, diverting activities you're supposed to do during this time of year. This could be ice-skating at Bryant Park; leisurely taking in the window displays at Lord & Taylor and Saks'; stopping for a good long gander at the Rockefeller Center tree; strolling down Fifth Avenue with no particular shopping goals in mind; or reserving time to visit Dyker Heights and eyeball the neighborhood's outrageous domestic light shows.
Sit down and watch that old tape of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Or just meet a friend for a very long lunch at an appropriately festive eatery and enjoy yourselves over a glass or two of something (Hot Chocolate, Hot Toddy, whatever). Just don't let the season get away. Look at the calendar and plan you day now! I mean it. Life will not stop for you. It never will. You have to stop it, if a moment of peace is going to happen at all.