In the Phillips' household, Thanksgiving is the official start to the holiday season.  The Saturday after the turkey settles, we pack up the pilgrim and pumpkin decorations and head to the attic.  Away goes fall and down comes Christmas.  Tree decorations, crèche, stockings, lights and the works fill the living room.  We get busy cranking up our holiday spirit.

The live tree has stood in the garage since Thanksgiving eve to give its branches time to fall out and rest from the netting that wrapped it until we got it home.  Tim wrestles it into the house trailing soft pine needles to its spot in the front window.  Our dogs frolic around him as he centers the tree in the stand just so, their fur Christmas-scented by the time he’s satisfied with its final position.  Christmas music, reindeer antlers on our heads, a big bowl of popcorn, and a crackling fire if the weather cooperates make the day-long job festive.  When we’re done, we marvel at our old decorations sparkling and the fact that our halls deck out differently every year.  No two Christmases have been the same.  As it should be, I think.

Now the real work begins.  Shopping, wrapping and filling the space beneath the pine boughs.  We don’t shop on Thanksgiving and neither of us do Black Friday crowds.  I confess, there have been those years where we were panic-shopping for our kids just days before the big guy was supposed to show up with the good stuff.  Not this year!  We are determined to wrap up shopping with time to spare.

In our home, Tim is the better shopper.  And he’s good at it, finding special and meaningful gifts that surprise and delight.  I, on the other hand, dread the whole gifting chore.  Don’t misunderstand:  I love giving gifts.  I just don’t love figuring out what to give and where to find what I finally do figure out.  For several years now, I’ve listened with envy as people around me bragged about being done with no stress because they shopped online.  “I spent a day on the computer and like that (fingers snap) I was finished!”  It sounded too good to be true, so I decided to try it last Christmas.

First of all, it took me more than a day.  No finger-snapping here.  I started by googling “gift ideas for the husband who wants nothing.”  I did similar custom searches for everyone on my list.  Shopping online is like wandering around in a giant store where shelves are packed with everything ever invented.  I am the kind of person who is distracted trying to pick a can of green beans from among the 10-plus brands in the grocery store.  Imagine my dilemma shopping with no clear direction among every item on Earth.  Overwhelming! y

Somehow, I managed to make a few successful online purchases.  Once I settled on a gift, the process of clicking a key on the computer while I sipped coffee in my pajamas was admittedly easy.  But, something was missing, and in spite of skipping the shopping-out-there drama and finishing my list sooner than ever, I was feeling all humbug.  I finally identified that missing something as the very process I was avoiding.  The act of investing time and physical energy into finding just the right thing for each person on my list actually stokes my holiday spirit.  And me not a shopper!  This was a major personal revelation.

This year, I’m starting out right, holiday flare aflame.  This coming Friday and Saturday my plan unfolds.  The Holiday Lighting Festival is Friday night on and around the square from 5:30-9:30 and Wassail Fest is Friday night and Saturday.  This is perfect because bah humbug is impossible among the cheer, Christmas lights, music, friends, food and wassail (one of my personal favorite Christmastime treats).  My strategy is to take my list and casually check out the shops while I bask in the Norman Rockwell-goes-Denton feeling of Holiday Lighting.   I’ll get the lay of the land and have plenty of time to ponder options.  Saturday I’ll start early with brunch and a visit to Community Market, the last one until spring.  Then I’ll leisurely wassail my way around downtown, gift-finding easy thanks to my Holiday Lighting reconnaissance.  I’ll put the wrap on Christmas without losing a wisp of Christmas spirit and have the rest of the season to enjoy what it’s all about.

This might just be my greatest Christmas plan ever.

See dentonmainstreet.org and dentonholidaylighting.com for festival details.