First there was a note on my dresser with a message – Dear Dad, see page 242 in the Christmas catalog.
That subtle missive led me to a check mark in the Christmas catalog next to something called “Radio Controlled Fat Wheels.”
A couple of days later copies of an intricately prepared 15-item Christmas list began appearing around the house. Lest prospective readers of that list be discouraged by its length, asterisks led to a supplemental listing whereby each item was given a yes, no or maybe, denoting its importance.
Not surprisingly, the yes column held a healthy lead at last look, strengthened by number 13 – money, with its yes in capital letters.
Another sure sign of the approaching season – a few days ago we were asked for Grandma’s address. No doubt, in a few days Grandma will be receiving one of her annual letters reading something like this: “Dear Grandma, how are you and Grandpa? I am fine. Here are some things I would like for Christmas this year.”
Then will follow Grandma’s own copy of the hallowed list. And, if she’s lucky, it won’t even be a carbon copy. But the crayons will be getting dull by then.
I think I may have found something useful in all of those catalogs and TV commercials, though. Someone is advertising a durable 42-key toy typewriter. Could that lead to a much improved, neater Christmas list next year? Maybe even double-spacing.
-Hodgepodge, Nov. 20, 1979
I started writing “Hodgepodge” in 1979. In December I wrote my very first “Christmas column.”
That year I wrote about people watching at airports, about letters kids wrote to Santa, and about one special letter I was given to mail that year: On the outside of the envelope was the following note: “Dear Santa (or Dad) please send a copy of this list to Grandma.”
The following year 1980, I wrote this column:
It’s a well-known fact that television watching is down this week before Christmas. I also read somewhere that people, this week when they are deeply involved with last minute holiday preparations, will just browse at the ads and the headlines in the newspapers.
That’s okay with me. If the readers are too busy to read, the writers won’t have to write. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Since I’m not going to write a column this week I won’t have to interrupt watching the 54th television special of the Christmas season.
I’m glad I’m not going to write a column this week. Instead of laughing at and cleverly detailing this last hectic week before Christmas, I can just ignore it and relax.
If I were to write an article this week I’d probably have to think of something cute to say about that last Christmas shopping expedition; the one you make a couple of days before Christmas – long after you have vowed not to spend another cent. That’s when you find yourself face to face with a sweet old grandmother who could probably go eight rounds with Ali and you’re having a tug-of-war over the last pair of stockings in your wife’s size.
Since I’m not doing a column this week I won’t have to go into detail about those Christmas letters we receive from our friends every year. The ones that go on and on about the many accomplishments of themselves and their kids and make you ashamed to look at your kids or into a mirror for a week.
Another good thing about not writing this week: I won’t have to agonize any further by telling readers about my annual five-hour bout during which I transform a beautiful tree growing freely in the great outdoors into a poor bedraggled heap of needles standing in the corner of my living room.
And best of all, if I don’t write a column this week, I won’t have to re-live in type those horrible hours spent every Christmas Eve assembling this year’s new toys.
It’s a real load off my mind now that I decided to take a vacation from writing this week.
If I were writing this week (but I’m not) there is one positive thing I would say:
Have a Merry Christmas.
No “Christmas column”
So for the next several years I didn’t write a “Christmas column” — my column the week before Christmas was about my pledge not to write a Christmas column. But I did and that week I wrote my last “I’m not going to write a column this week” column.
From December 22, 1986:
Some traditions aren’t all that easy to get established, but then again, they don’t die off without a fight either.
A few years ago I started what I thought would be a long standing tradition during the week before Christmas. I decided to write my Christmas week column about how I wouldn’t be writing a Christmas week column.
The problem is that some opposition seems to have grown up around that concept.
“Don’t tell me that you’re going to write that same old column about not writing a column.”
So, it’s time for a change in strategy. This year I’m not only not going to write a column; but I’m certainly not going to take the time to write a column about not writing a column. And that’s final.
Good advice from Dickens
Several years since then I have ended my Christmas week column with this:
Charles Dickens, who wrote and said a lot about Christmas said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”
. . . Roy Hodge