A cure for the bah-humbugs

I came in early this morning to write my weekly column. Usually, I write a good portion of it Wednesday afternoon to avoid adding any more pressure to already anxiety-inducing deadline routine. I had every intention of getting a head start on the holiday-themed piece Iíd be penning for today. But yesterday, I just couldnít gear myself up for it.

The problem is, Iíve been having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. For someone who delights in the joy and cheer of the holidays as much as me, thatís a hard thing to admit.

Thinking perhaps the problem was a poorly decorated workspace Ė and we canít have that, can we! Ė I made use of some of my pre-dawn time in the office to take down my outdated fall decor and replace it with something decidedly more festive. As a result, my corner of the newsroom is now resplendent in gold-edged red ribbon (which Iím proud to say is ill-gotten gain from a ĎPunching the Clockí I did at the L.A. Najarian Ribbon Mill in my early days as an ES staffer).

The piece de resistance, though, is my Christmas clothesline Ė a string of elf-like garments (from knickers to outerwear) hanging by miniature wooden clothespins from a green cord. My mother gave it to me a couple of years ago, and it never fails to make me giggle with yule-time glee.

I know my coworkers appreciate it, too. Even if Jeffís first comment when he came in this morning, seeing it strung festively in my cubicle once more, was that somewhere, a naked elf was running around.

Already, I can feel the warmth of the holiday season seeping into my bones and I can almost imagine the scent of hot cocoa and candy canes floating in the newsroom air.

Oh wait, maybe thatís just the coffee Iím currently sipping from an appropriately-themed vessel. I forgot I flavored it with peppermint mocha creamer I pilfered from Sports Editor Pat Newellís private stash. (Ooops. Did I just admit that? Sorry, Pat. I promise Iíll replenish your supply.)

Itís a relief really, to feel this old familiar holiday spirit settle back into me. I was starting to get a little worried. Itís not that Iíve been completely devoid of Christmasy inspiration.

I felt my first flicker of excitement for the Christmas season on Saturday during the Parade of Lights. My coworkers and I really worked our tails off putting together this yearís Delivering Christmas float. In fact, we were still putting on the finishing touches as we turned onto Broad Street, but all the effort we put in was worth it when I saw the unbridled candy-cane coated joy on the faces of the small children in the crowd gathered at the curb.

As we made our way down the parade route, I smiled and waved with the best of them, filled with that holiday glow.

It was over all too soon, though. And by the time we were done disassembling our creation, that glow had been all but extinguished.

On Sunday, I made a half-hearted attempt to write out Christmas cards, but could barely muster enough Yuletide spirit to tackle the first ten names on the list. The stack of blank cards has been taunting me ever since.

I just donít know what it is. Maybe itís the weather, which, as my climate-change preaching coworker Brian Golden is quick to point out, is warmer than the norm for this time of year.

But I think it has more to do with the ever-increasing commercialism surrounding the Christmas season. I cringed when the holiday banners went up in Norwich and surrounding communities right after Halloween. Every year, retailers seem to pull out their Christmas wares earlier and earlier. I know itís in an effort to spur holiday shopping sales and our economy certainly needs the boost. But seriously, folks, I donít like to be rushed.

And itís had a detrimental effect on my holiday morale. I think the decorations were up so early, that Iíve become desensitized to it all. Itís lost the magic I used to look forward to so as a child.

It detracts, too, from the true meaning of this season. I like gifts as much as the next girl, donít get me wrong. But I get more joy in placing those gaily wrapped and ribbon clad boxes under the tree than I do in unwrapping them in the Christmas morning frenzy. Because I believe that at this time of year, more than any other, it should be about giving rather than receiving.

Thatís why I truly love our Delivering Christmas series. It is our chance to give back to the communities which we cover all year. The series debuted yesterday with Tyler Murphyís article about his time volunteering at the Taste-and-See Soup Kitchen in Oxford. Youíll see similar stories published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between now and Christmas, as my co-workers and I volunteer with different organizations across the county.

We are also doing our book drive for Toys for Tots. Our carriers are in on it as well, and will be collecting donations of new, unwrapped books from the subscribers on their route in just a couple of weeks. (Weíre still finalizing the date, but donít worry, it will be well publicized.)

Books can also be dropped off at any Toys for Tots collection site in Chenango County, or at the Pennysaver/Evening Sun office on Lackawanna Ave. in Norwich.

This afternoon a few of my compatriots and I will be heading over to the Toys for Tots headquarters in the former Salvation Army building on South Broad Street to help sort toys.

I know that this, my first Delivering Christmas experience of the year, will do more than even my newly decked out work space, to get me into the true spirit of this holiday season.

If you, too, need a little Christmas this year, donít fret. The Evening Sun delivers.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.

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