The holiday mashup

Published November 23, 2023

By Tom Campbell

A friend gave us an insulated mug with a clever cartoon saying, “Happy Hallothanksmus.”
We chuckled about the mashup, but agreed it was pretty accurate. No sooner do we observe Halloween then it’s Thanksgiving. And, in the blink of an eye, Christmas. This time of year is busy, noisy, stressful and way too commercial.
Perhaps you can remember your childhood when we thought Christmas would never arrive. The excitement crescendoed when the Sears Christmas catalogue came. We spent hours daydreaming about what we wanted for Christmas. Those pages were dog-eared long before Christmas day.
We need some real Christmas spirit night now.
I propose we turn off the Christmas machine and reach for some peace and goodwill. Our role model would be Charlie Brown, the eternal optimist. Aside from putting up the ugliest tree on the planet how might he tell us to turn things upside down and inside out?
A Charlie Brown list of seven ways to make this holiday season more peaceful and happy:
1.         Take a pledge to look for the sunny side… in all things.
2.         Turn off all devices for “you time.” Six hours without a screen will do wonders for your state of mind. Rinse and repeat.
3.         Take at least one nap a week. Daytime sleep is ever so refreshing.
4.         Go on a fast from the incessant droning of cable news, including the ever-present stories  of wrecks, rapes, robberies and murders that lead most all television newscasts. The     world can continue without your vigilance. I promise you will be happier.
5.         On long, meandering walks stop to marvel at the beauty around you. Smell the fresh air,   examine the leaves, winding creeks, unusual trees and other surroundings. Go slow,       breathe deep and marvel. It’s amazing what you’ll see when you really look.
6.         Read a book. You pick the subject, the author and whether fiction or not. Block off a        couple of hours to just sit and read without interruptions. It’s ok if you doze off.
7.         Go to restaurant for a leisurely meal with family or friends… where you can take      your time and enjoy both the atmosphere, the food and personal interactions. Or create a    similar experience at home. Set the table just for the beauty of it, with linen tablecloth      and cloth napkins, real lit candles. Be sure to serve comfort food, spending at least an           hour over the meal.    
Of course, the big cloud hovering over us at Christmas is SHOPPING, followed by wrapping gifts. Checking off your list trying to pick the “just right” present for others without maxing the credit card. Almost as stressful is the ritual of receiving gifts and trying to pretend they are “just what I wanted.”
Are you willing to try some new traditions? Here are some stress-relieving suggestions from folks we know:
*   Makies: Each family member draws one or more names from among family, then spends time personally designing and making a present just for them. The recipient knows it was something personal from you.
*   Surprise the giver: Here’s another unique approach that flips gift giving. Each family agrees to a pre-set monetary amount to spend on individual presents. Each person then buys a gift they would like, wrap it and put it under the tree, labeling themselves as the recipient and the family member as giver. The great surprise is when the giver learns what they gave you.
*   Thrift store gifts: Set a dollar limit for recipients then go to a thrift store and purchase a gift. You’d be surprised what you can get, and you are usually benefitting a charity.
*   White Elephant Gifts: It’s all just fun. Christmas day will be filled with laughter and bonhomie when opened. You probably need to insist on boundaries of good taste and propriety.
*   Experiences: If there those on your list (parents) it is impossible to give something they don’t already have, give them an experience. Something as simple as a picnic in the park, trip to a museum, concert or overnight stay at a fun place. And the best part is when you accompany them. Or you could wash their car, rake leaves, make repairs or do other chores for them.
*   Family experiences: We know a family that goes on a trip together with family to a mutually agreeable place in lieu of presents.
*   Angel gifts: In lieu of buying each other gifts, some families agree to adopt a family in need at Christmastime. Groceries, gifts for children, clothing or gift cards can be a big boost to families needing a little help during the holidays. The big reward is when you go to deliver the angel gifts and see the appreciation from those you helped.
Use your creativity to think of other ways to make giving and receiving less stressful and more enjoyable. Holidays canbe meaningful and fun.
And a happy Hallothanksmus to you and yours!
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at