Auntie Scrooge’s Unsolicited Advice for the Holidays

Now that the competitive shopping marathon has begun and social events designed to crush the soul are in full swing, I’ve grumbled my way through a mall, a holiday party or three, and the receipt of numerous greeting cards with pets and coordinated outfits, and sometimes pets in coordinated outfits. I’m in the mood for unsolicited advice-giving. You’re welcome – in advance of the overwhelming gratitude you will surely feel.

Let’s get the respective holiday greetings out of the way. Merry Happy Holiday Christmas, Hanukkah,  Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Ōmisoka (大晦日), Three Kings Day, Winter Solstice, Festivus, Quaid-e-Azam Day, and fill-in-the-blank Day. And for people like me, good luck with avoiding hugging, food poisoning, and advice from well-meaning and sometimes just mean relatives, on how to be someone other than who you are.

In addition to my much-loved (by me) post on how to survive the holidays as an introvert, here are some other invaluable tips:

Shopping for Gifts

canstockphoto4907306Remember that we all die. Remember what happens to our stuff when we die. Remember what other people do with the stuff we give them – usually before they die.

One year I gave a relative a yoga set – a mat and DVD. She’d been talking about her stress and various aches and pains and was considering yoga. The next year when I went to visit her, she’d cut up the yoga mat and made treads out of the pieces to keep her from slipping on the stairs. Indeed, it likely served the purpose of reducing her stress and prevented injuries, but actual stair treads would have been cheaper.

Don’t spend a lot of money on stuff. Sure, it makes the economy go round, but after the latest tax “reform”, we’re going to be in a recession in a few years anyway. Save your money. You’re going to need it for healthcare when you lose your job.


canstockphoto32200781I hate going to the Y in January, because the resolution gang is there trying to work off holiday pounds, accidentally flying off treadmills, talking more than moving, taking workout tips from any random employee who will talk to them, and wandering from machine to machine without wiping any of them off after use.  I’m all for working out and for people finding their groove, but come mid-February, when my retinas will have recovered from all the neon polyester workout clothes, I’ll look around only to see me and four senior citizens.

So don’t do, eat, drink or buy anything that requires a follow-up resolution, pregnancy test or bankruptcy filing. Or at the very least, don’t go to my gym.

Mental Gymnastics

If you’re a writer, there’s a fun little exercise you can do. Find that relative that makes you want to flip a table and back into their car as you tear out of the driveway. Watch them. How would you write them? What would their death scene entail? Or less violently, which Muppet would they be? Which reminds me of a great way to enter (and exit) any gathering:


Practicing Gratitude. In the mirror.

Get your game face on. Someone is about to give you a really ugly, useless gift that has nothing to do with any of your interests or personality. They either a) want you to change or b) don’t remember anything about you c) received it last year or d) are viciously delighted that you’ll be forced to put it out every time they come to visit.

canstockphoto15420316There’s the nostalgia/long distance relative gift. Your aunt remembers that when you were 11, back in 1978, you used to collect porcelain hedgehogs and she just happened to see one in a souvenir shop in Nashville that says I ♥ Tennessee on it and thought of you. Smile big now. She thought of you, even though you’re 50 years old and traded that collection in for boys when you turned 13.

I joke a lot, but my favorite gifts are good pens, pictures, a cherished poem written out, any creative endeavor, books if you know me, socks if you don’t or Ghiradelli’s Limited Edition Peppermint Bark Chocolates (always be specific on which chocolate you like, or you’ll end up with spackle-filled samplers). This is all to say that I’m a cheap date and most people, with a little thought and a whole lot less money, are too. And if they’re not, make sure you give them a card that tells them you’ve donated money in their honor to some charity you know they’ll hate.

Look for the Moments

It’s an odd year. I’m not much inclined towards commercial or cyclical sentiments in the first place, but this last year has been a real test of the idea of joy and what that means. I know it doesn’t mean the holidays, which entail too many expectations, too much work, too much of everything.

canstockphoto15427711There are moments, though, that give one pause. My daughter’s orchestra performed in the middle of a busy shopping mall (hence the forced mall visit). The music swelled and drowned out the chatter, expanding up to the high ceiling. A full orchestra of kids from every background, playing this beautiful music. My eyes welled up as I listened. People slowed down, taken off guard by an orchestra in the middle of everything. I like those moments. Moments that transcend shopping.

Some moments are just unexpected. I joined a voting rights organization earlier this year and made myself attend their holiday party in spite of my inclination to hide. I ended up sitting next to the city mayor and had a great conversation. I’m a bit of a political junkie and learning about city level politics fascinates me, as well as learning about the people who are willing to enter that arena. I met quite a few interesting people. What I thought would be merely tolerable, was surprisingly enjoyable.

Those moments sometimes find us, but most of the time, we have to keep our eyes open, be willing to say yes, not burden them with our nostalgia or expectations. It’s important to find the time to give ourselves room to breathe, to slow down, to step back. And to imagine a piano falling on the head of that relative who dominates every conversation with bumper sticker politics or vivid descriptions of their fungal issues. Pass the eggnog, indeed.

Wishing you and yours an uneventful holiday season, and a whole lot of peace!

40 thoughts on “Auntie Scrooge’s Unsolicited Advice for the Holidays

  1. OMG, I LOVE this post! I will never look at stairs again without imagining pieces of a yoga mat stuck to them! But many a truth has been said in jest and you have also touched on some meaningful and important points. My friends and I gave up on gifts years ago, for all occasions. None of us needs anything — other than the things that are not in our power to give — like world peace, an end to poverty and hunger and new political leadership pretty much everywhere.


    1. Pressed “post” too fast. Merry Christmas Michelle. Hope your 2018 is happy, healthy, peaceful and the words keep flowing.


    2. Thanks, Fransi. It was an odd thing to see – those purple treads. And I think she’d even forgotten who gave that or what they were before being re-purposed. Still, we don’t get to dictate what happens with our gifts once given. It’s just a reminder not to go overboard when choosing something, keeping in mind it might end up being walked all over!
      I hope your holiday season is lovely and that 2018 brings you joy. I look forward to a very productive writing year!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For too many reasons to write here, I’ve opted out of the holidays this year, and it feels…like a relief! The only thing I’m really going to miss is the joy of a bustling mall on Boxing Day, but logistically, there’s no way that can happen, and I’m okay with that.


    1. I’ve had years when I opted out and it made me realize how exhausting all those other years were. These days, I celebrate a hybrid of activities comprised of things I prefer to do and ignoring the pressure to do more. I’ve never been a fan of malls, but I like pretty lights and music, so we have lots of music playing and lights in the house. Sometimes the best gift a person can give themselves is permission to opt out and lay low or get on with life, which is never on a holiday schedule. Best wishes to you.


    1. Fortunately, as I get older, those relatives have grown much less irritating. Mostly because I suspect I’m becoming one of them! I’ve also gotten better at limiting contact with the truly toxic ones. But if one of your strengths is imagination – it can really give some much-needed distance.


  3. You make me laugh Michelle. I’m sitting here picturing some of my relatives as fictional characters and I have to say, it’s a great tool to cope with them, at least from a distance. The old man and I spend pretty much every Christmas alone now, and while it makes it feel lonely compared to the big family gatherings we had when I was a kid, it does make it possible to do it differently and bag the stuff that isn’t working anymore. A few lights, music and good old fashioned Christmas movies are it this year. Wishing you lots of those moments Michelle, now and in the New Year!


    1. I’m fortunate, I guess, that I don’t have much nostalgia for the family gatherings of my youth. Ours were often full of drunk adults, an occasional fist fight, and a police call or two. I love the quiet ones that happen now – still with good cooking, good music, and pretty lights, but no police presence necessary. I hope you have a lovely season and a wonderful 2018!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I like it! We’re of the mind that doing is better than having. I find shopping to be quite a joyless experience. This year, we bought very little, focused on what will be useful and donated more. To me, it simply makes more sense, beyond the altruism. We don’t need anything, but there are plenty that do. Best wishes to you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Allison. I laughed a bit when writing it. Silliness can be a blessing and a release. I have fewer relatives around that are toxic these days and I feel less of an obligation because “they’re family”. Family is often what we decide it is. I hope that you and Don are doing well and enjoying the comforts of home. Best wishes for the new year!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. As fast as these malls are now being drained and abandoned, there’s certainly enough performance space. That would be my kind of mall – each store with a different band, orchestra, book reading, stand up comedy, play being put on – that would be a mall I’d visit.


  4. I am planning on leaving a memorial token in my will in your name. Upon my death, a sum of no less than $10 will be donated to the gold-tipped spiny, ceramic hedgehog collectibles society. If there is one to be found. I hope you feel duly honored.


  5. Great post, Michelle, and thank you for such a memorable combination of humor and honesty. I love the handy hints and it will take me a while to stop chuckling over the yoga mat. The orchestra experience sounded amazing, a reminder of the delights that can surprise us. All the best for the season and thank you for setting such a festive tone!


    1. Thanks! I didn’t want to deal with attribution issues, so I purchase image credits at It’s a luxury and a little lazy on my part, but since I feel strongly about copyright issues, I’m okay with it.

      There are a lot of free sources for royalty-free, unlicensed photos. You could check out the sites at this link: or here:

      Happy holidays to you as well!


    1. Same here. They say it’s the thought that it counts, but so often, it feels like very little thought went into a gift. And there is SO much junky stuff sold at this time of year. It brings together every concern one could have about consumerism – unfair labor practices, environmental damage, and most of my relatives don’t have money to throw about. It’s hard to discourage the practice. I’ve started giving less in general in the hopes of starting a trend…


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