tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas lessons

I’ve learned a few things since I heard my first Christmas song this season on November 15th, courtesy of the Twin Cities’ “official Christmas music radio station.”

The first thing I learned is that we have an “official Christmas music radio station.”

The second thing I learned is how to give a woman a Christmas gift. A friend explained it to me: “First, ask her what she wants; then, buy it for her.”

The third thing I learned is there is nothing worth buying at Southdale. I wondered through that soulless mall three times looking for something to buy my loved ones and found nothing. This year, I ended up buying most of my presents at neighborhood stores.

The fourth thing I learned is that it is foolish to wait until December 22 to shop. Every year, I tell myself I am going to complete all my Christmas shopping by Halloween, but inevitably, I find myself shopping for last minute gifts at the Super America station at 5:30 on Christmas Eve. Next year will be different.

In 2008, I am taking a new approach to Christmas shopping. I will not wait until the season to being my shopping. Throughout the year, if I see something that might make a good gift for a friend or family member, I am going to buy it and save it for Christmas. I suspect that throughout the course of the year I will see things that people might really like. If I buy when I see those things -- even if it is May -- I won’t be forced into the defensive buying spree that typically results in me giving people things they don’t want.

The fifth thing I learned is Mindy Smith sings some really nice Christmas music. I bought her “My Holiday” CD purely on spec and it turned out to be one of my best moves. Her music is my music. Go to Amazon, buy the CD and listen for yourself.

The sixth thing I learned is that not everyone in my neighborhood has the Christmas spirit. It snowed a couple weeks ago. I was out there at 5:30 in the morning to get the sidewalk cleared. But later in the day, my kids played in the snow and pushed a lot of it back onto the sidewalk. Two days later I got a notice from the City of Minneapolis telling me that if I didn’t get my sidewalk cleared within 48 hours, I would be fined $102. Someone from the neighborhood had complained. It made me mad that someone would choose to threaten me with a fine instead of just talk to me about my sidewalk; I shoveled again, nonetheless. A few days later, we had another foot of snow.

The seventh thing I learned is that it doesn’t take many sugar cookies, peanut brittle bars and fudge to put on weight. Like other highly-developed mammals, I like to put on an extra layer of fat going into the winter, but this year the Christmas goodies have given me a corpulent look beyond my comfort zone. I’ll be going back to Weight Watchers, but not until after the holidays and at least one more box of Frangos.

The eighth thing I learned is that people like to get their Christmas cards before Christmas. We send out cards every year, but often we don’t get the job done until around New Year’s Day. When a friend got our family card around Dec. 20 this year, she thanked me. “Nice to get it before Christmas,” she said.

There is always something to learn. I try to keep my eyes and ears open to pick up new lessons. The timeless lesson -- that is, the meaning of Christmas -- however, is one you can pick up by keeping your heart open. Or at least, that’s what’s worked best for me.

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