I am actually pretty good at not letting Christmas kick my ass. If X = The Amount of Christmas I Need and Y = How Much Shit I Need To Do To Acheive Optimum Christmastic Effect, then somehow I’ve managed to come up with a stable formula that won’t give me a rash or create a holly-berry-scented acid byproduct or cause a really twinkly but fatal explosion even if I happen to drop the beaker. I think this is because I’ve had years to work on it.

At some point while I was growing up, I noticed that my parents were so busy with work and grad school and stuff that I decided to be The Girl Who Saved Christmas. “Six kinds of cookies!” my family would exclaim. “Why, we would have been fucking screwed without those, and without the decorative tinsel garland accents in the bathroom! Thank you, Girl Who Saved Christmas!” Except, really, they’d say, “That’s nice, honey. Don’t forget to clean up afterwards.” I know that now. But years of that managed to get a lot of holiday ambition out of my system. Now I only bake a couple different things and have a pretty small card list and I’m not afraid to be all lame with the gift certificates.

This weekend, as I’ve been getting stuff together, I’ve been more aware than usual of the things I still insist on. There are weird, residual little holiday compulsions that I try to abide by in order to avoid subliminal and potentially soul-eroding anxiety. Which is not to say they are a big deal, right? These include:

1.) Presents must be wrapped with several different kinds of gift wrap. This is important as it serves to create an eye-pleasing array of gifts. No more than two gifts can have the same paper, and they must be not be placed adjacent to one another in The Array. Wrapping all the presents in the same gift wrap severely diminishes the specialness of each individual present. A variety of paper styles creates a visual tableaux of abundance inasmuch as it signifies an abundance of wrapping paper and thus a generous spirit. It does. It does!!!!

2.) Candles must accompany as many Christmas-related tasks and activities as possible. I don’t know. I really don’t have an explanation for this. Jesus used candles, right?

3.) Any opportunity to tastefully make use of the fancy expensive craft ribbon with the wire sewn into the edges to create spectacular bows that stand up by themselves should be taken, and any quantity of fancy expensive craft ribbon with the wire sewn into the edges not used must be hoarded in regard to how fancy and expensive it is. This is not something Jesus would do. I mean, I hope not.

4.) Any minor present received before Chirstmas Day (i.e., cards, token gifts from co-workers, tins of cookies, et cetera) must retain as much of its wrapping and hence its precious Christmasness for as long as is practical. For these are placed among The Array. Unless they’re totally tacky.

5.) Time must be designated for staring at Christmas lights. Ideally the regimen of staring should be increased as the holiday approaches until, on Christmas Eve, a 45-minute long trance is achieved. Usually I get bored long before then, but I strongly believe the option should be there.

Is it okay that I’m telling you all this? Remember, Christmas is all about sharing.