Over the Hill

Joy of giving is still authentic even as Christmas becomes more artificial

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Yes, online Christmas cards are flashier than the old paper cards. But the internet cards don’t work for decorating a living room or family room. Old-fashioned Christmas cards, on the other hand, can be hung with ornament hooks on brightly colored yarn stretched along walls and on fireplaces.

I admit online Christmas cards are animated and musical, but how can you display them? I suppose there’s some program or other that will show them consecutively on your computer or TV screen, or maybe even project them, but that doesn’t seem very decorative to me.

Mamie and I got our supply of colored yarn many years ago, and we’ve used it every Christmas since then. You may still be able to buy such yarn at hobby or art-supply stores.

When I was a boy in the 1930s, almost every housewife had yarn for darning holes in stockings. When a hole was worn in a family member’s stocking, the housewife didn’t toss it out, she darned it. She stitched a network of yarn across the hole. It was drab-colored yarn though, not a decorative bright red or green.

The house I lived in as a boy didn’t have a fireplace. We hung our Christmas stockings on a doorknob. The men who built that house probably considered fireplaces to be old-fashioned nuisances. Instead, they put in an inefficient coal-burning furnace. The fireplaces we find in today’s more modern houses are just decorations, but we pretend they aren’t.

Many of today’s Christmas trees aren’t real either. Mine comes apart in two pieces that fold something like umbrellas, with the lights still attached. It all fits into a box for storage on a shelf in the garage.

Of course, some people still buy natural Christmas trees, but I wonder if there are as many Christmas tree lots as there once were. I also wonder if those trees still smell as piney as they did before being cut down. But don’t worry, somebody probably sells pine-tree smell in a spray can.

And don’t expect a white Christmas. If you want snow you have to go up on a mountain that hasn’t been blackened by a forest fire.

Another feature of our modern Christmases is the easy availability of gift cards from far-away famous stores. You don’t have to select the gift, just the store and the amount to spend. You don’t have to worry about sizes or colors or even what the recipients actually want. And you don’t have to do any Christmas wrapping. Just put the gift card in the envelope with a Christmas card.

So my question is: Why do we send Christmas cards and buy and exchange Christmas presents? Is it because we are thoughtful and generous and it makes us feel good? Or is it because we’d feel guilty if we didn’t do it? Or is it a combination of both impulses?

My answer is: It doesn’t matter. It somehow makes all parties feel good, so Merry Christmas.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every other week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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