Be Merry and Mannered

By: Karen Bowles

If each of us painted a picture of our perfect Christmas Eve, many of our paintings would look surprisingly similar. Our family and friends would have happy faces and healthy minds and bodies; the warmth of home and the love abiding there would be visible. Presents would be under the tree wrapped with festive paper, bows and tags fastened to each, as the clock on the wall tells the day is still young. Everything would be in its place – the house clean, the fire in the fireplace glowing, and the stockings “hung by the chimney with care.”

Ahhh….the feeling of being finished with the hustle and bustle of Christmas in time to enjoy the holiday’s true meaning. After attending Christmas Eve service at church, we would nestle “all snug in our beds,” the gifts all wrapped. The question: how do we get to this ideal? The answer, I’ve heard, is by starting early, by having our shopping completed weeks before Christmas arrives.

In order for our shopping time to be tolerable and perhaps even pleasant, there are some rules of thumb that may help us keep the joy and peace in this busy time of year. Here are a few of these holiday shopping guidelines:

Procrastinate no longer: If we leave shopping until the last days, it may seem as if we are in the middle of a football huddle as we reach for that fairy princess tea set for little Suzie or the glow in the dark robotic toy for Uncle Fred. It is not proper shopping etiquette to push and shove, so let us try to avoid that if at all possible.

Dress comfortably: Shoes are the most important part of your shopping attire! Make them your most comfortable. This is not a fashion show; no one will be looking at our feet. We get grouchy when our feet hurt are too cold or too hot, and when others see or sense our grouchiness, they are uncomfortable. Making others uncomfortable is not using nice manners. Bulky clothes or large handbags slow us down. Streamline them both; you won’t regret it. The people you walk past will appreciate your not hitting them with your cumbrous pocketbook and the store clerks will be relieved not to have to refold the stack of sweaters that landed accidently in a heap on the floor when the winter coat folded over your arm brushed the top of one sweater as you sidestepped by. Perhaps donning a vest would be a better choice than a coat on our shopping days. It is not considered good manners to bang into unsuspecting shoppers with our oversized handbags, nor is it polite to make more work for those people charged with picking up what we cause to be misplaced.

Leave small children at home, please: They will thank you, store clerks will thank you, the rest of the shoppers will thank you, and mostly, you will thank yourself for such a novel and brilliant idea that allowed you to have two hands instead of one, or none, as you shop. If we want to take our children and/or grandchildren to see Santa, let us do all we can to make Santa and the children the main event of the evening, sans shopping. Everyone will be much happier should we choose this approach. When hurried, stressed out parents with bored, overtired, and understandably cranky children cause a disruption in Sears, the parents in creating a lose, lose situation for all and are not displaying good manners.

Avoid parking lot rage: In the days leading up to Christmas there are officially more drivers than parking spots, so good parking manners are essential. If you see a spot about to open up, pull to the side of the aisle and turn on your indicator light. Try your best not to block the entire aisle. Don’t swoop in and steal spots from others who clearly are waiting for a spot. It’s bad manners and bad karma. And unless you want expletive-laden messages left on your vehicle, please don’t ever take up more than one parking spot.

Smile: Remember that the reason you are shopping is to buy gifts for people that you love, and to celebrate friends and family. Regardless of our opinion on the commercialization of the holidays, if we’ve chosen to participate, we must do so with a smile. Saying please and thank you will make shopping days better.

How closely will we match the Christmas Eve in our paintings to the Christmas Eves in our homes this year? If we plan ahead, and take a moment to remember our manners; to say please and thank you, to smile, and to treat others as we wish to be treated, perhaps we can come surprisingly close.

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