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With 50 in the Rearview Mirror

The 12 Things to Never Do (Again) During the Holidays

Avoid the Christmas letter, smoking Santas at all cost

'Tis the season to be excessive.

Every year, it starts earlier and earlier — which, when it comes to excessive, is, of course, redundant. Groovy ghouls are in place by Labor Day, and Santa chases the zombies right out of the store before a single snowflake falls.

Now believe me, gentle reader, I know from excessive.

See also: Starting life over after 50.

visiting with santa - author Jaquelyn Mitchard does away with certain holiday traditions

One thing never to do again — see Santa. — Photo by Paul & Lindamarie Ambrose/Getty Images

For Christmases past, I've decked the halls, but also the bedrooms. I've decked the bathrooms, although not with crocheted toilet-paper covers. (Even when I had no limits, I had my limits.) In a small town where I once lived, I cajoled the fire department into "zipping by" (I called it "zipping by") with the ladder truck to help me festoon an outdoor evergreen with bulbs so vintage that, I'm sure, they constituted a fire hazard. My record length for the bûche de Noël is 30 inches, give or take a sugar holly leaf. And then there was the strategic three walls of light and sound that my then 15-year-old son and I once set to Mannheim Steamroller (as fa-la-la but not so ooh-la-la as Christmas Lights Gone Wild).

My Christmas house takes up three bookshelves. It consists of 92 separate pieces and 14 snow people, including, yes, one on a skateboard and one who is expecting a baby.

But these days, I'm so darned restrained and elegant you wouldn't know me. For I got wise, like the three men. I learned it was better far to light just one little candle than to blow four fuses every night.

Now, there are wiser things I do than I have ever done: Most of them involve one single, little, four-letter word that begins with L.


Just for groans, let me share a few things I may have done once but which I now would not do for a candy cane dipped in champagne.

1. Go to see Santa. I would not go see Santa with my children or their children at the North Pole. Or even Macy's. Last year, Santa arrived in a Dodge Caravan, eating a ham sandwich. My nephew, age 7, remarked that the Jolly One must have earlier been smoking that fabled pipe whose smoke encircled his head like a wreath, because the jolly old soul smelled like an ashtray.

2. Wear an elf costume. I would not wear an elf costume especially if it involved elf bikini bottoms. I would not wear this especially if I were a guy.

3. Put up with anyone playing that song about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer. Yea, verily, and seemingly contradictorily, I would not apologize for playing 20 straight loops of Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas or Bob and Doug McKenzie's rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." And that said, if you want to hear that song about the Christmas shoes, play it in your own car with the windows closed. It is not the same as "Scarlet Ribbons." This is my essay, so I can say that.

4. Make my kids wear sweaters that match. Give my kids sweaters that match mine.

5. Give any child a stuffed animal. The truth of children is that children love one stuffed animal per lifetime. The rest of them prop up the walls at Goodwill.

Next: Never stop making these holiday cookies. >>

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