Whenever a store clerk tells me “Happy holidays” after I complete some Christmas shopping, I like to stop in midtracks, look puzzled and ask innocently: “What holidays are you talking about?”
The clerk, also with a puzzled face, replies: “Why, Christmas, of course.”
I say, “Oh, Christmas. Well, why didn’t you say that in the first place? Merry Christmas to you, too!”
That way, I let the clerk off the hook for some silly store policy of not calling the biggest holiday of the year by its true name without criticizing the clerk for trying to keep her job. Everyone is happy and silly political correctness loses another round.
At least, that’s my plan – if I ever begin my Christmas shopping. I am the world’s worst shopper. Whereas my wife and other members of my family seem to know the right things to buy for everyone, I am clueless. Even though I abhor the idea of giving gift cards, I must admit they make a lot of sense in a senseless world.
Being so shopping challenged, I welcome ideas and hints from loved ones. Two years ago, I started and completed my shopping on Christmas Eve, and I’m sure it showed. This year, I need to stay out of crowds, but shopping online is just as difficult.
As I pondered this dilemma during the weekend, the radio played The 12 Days of Christmas and I perked up my ears for inspiration. I don’t know of anyone on my list who would appreciate 12 drummers, 11 pipers or 10 lords (settle down, Kevin Spacey) and the only people who would hope to rent the services of nine dancing ladies or eight milkmaids would tend to be a Hollywood producer or run for the Senate in Alabama.
Here’s the thing, though, I never really noticed until I reviewed the stanzas of that Christmas song that the rest of the gifts – the first seven of the 12 days’ worth (58.33 percent) – are birds: seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
You notice I included five gold rings in that list of birds because some scholars say that reference could be to the five golden rings around the neck of the ringed pheasant. Other writers who have studied Christmastime winged creatures far more than I say it could refer to five goldspinks, or goldfinches; or perhaps even canaries, whose yellow feathers look golden.
How would you like to get a houseful of geese or swans this Dec. 25? Yeah, me neither. That’s one mess nobody needs.
Perhaps I could get all my shopping done closer to Christmas. I’m thinking, “On the first day of Christmas, I could give to you, a three-piece box with two sides and tea.” Extra crispy or original recipe?