Christmas season do’s and don’ts

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 23, 2014 – 12:00am

It’s the season of all seasons again. We go through this every year. We love it but complain a lot about traffic, expenses, schedules, parties we must attend. But every time we go through it, there are things we discover, and learn. There are also things we keep doing even if we know we must avoid them.

Today, I thought I would share with you my survivor’s guide to the Christmas season in terms of practical do’s and don’ts.

A. Why you should not play with firecrackers.

1) You could lose fingers, hands and limbs.

2) Without fingers or hands, you can’t get an NBI clearance. It is also difficult getting other documents that need fingerprints such as passports, voter’s ID, driver’s license, etc.

3) You can’t use chopsticks.

4) When you play “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” you can only do “rock.”

5) It’s hard to pee if you are a guy.

6) You can’t use a cell phone.

7) You can’t pick your nose.

8) You can’t snap your fingers to music.

9) You can’t give anyone the finger.

10) You will always be a suspected member of the Yakuza.

11) You can’t play guitar, piano or most musical instruments.

12) You will look awkward putting your hand on your face or mouth and saying, “OMG!”

13) You can’t sing Stop (In the Name of Love) with proper choreography.

14) You can’t imitate any of the three famous monkeys.

B. On giving Christmas gifts.

1) Try to avoid giving away fruitcakes that you received last Christmas, even as an “emergency gift.” We all get them as presents and often, they remain in the freezer, perhaps because we received too many. But if you must give away last year’s fruitcake, avoid the mistake and absolute embarrassment of giving it back to the same person who gave it to you.

2) Remove the price tags on the gifts you give. Leaving it there to show how expensive the gift is is not cool!

3) When you can’t give an expensive gift, give a useful one that people can use. Better yet, if you are on a really tight budget, get cheap but funny gifts, but make sure that the recipients are the type who will appreciate them. My brother Raffy cracks up the entire family every time with novelty gifts that are cheap but spot-on. Some Christmases back, he gave me campaign paraphernalia for a candidate I hated and whose candidacy was a big joke to me.

4) Food items and fruit baskets are always appropriate because they have to be opened and consumed within a certain time frame and you can be sure it will be appreciated. For canned goods, check expiration dates. You don’t want anyone getting sick because of the food basket you sent. Wines and spirits are great gifts also.

5) Give appropriate gifts. For example, do not give lighters or cigarettes to people who have quit or are trying to quit smoking. Don’t give rich calorie gifts like chocolates and pastries to people who are trying to lose weight. Do not give people with no balls a pair of loose pants that give them too much ball room.

6) Do give to charity. Such gifts reflect the true spirit of the season and are always well appreciated. It will take out the stress that goes with the season. It will make you feel good that somehow you are helping other people have a great Christmas.

C. Caroling tips.

There are street carolers who knock on your gate five times a night under different guises, and there are choirs that actually make appointments with people they wish to sing for. The first type earns peanuts while the second gets much better pay for their efforts. Here are a few rules of etiquette for both carolers and carolees:

1) Sing in tune and know the lyrics.

2) For street carolers, do not scream and shout when you sing, and at least practice your songs before you go from house to house. People pay you to sing, not just to shut you up.

3) Sing like you mean to wish the carolee a blessed Christmas. Try to sound sincere and competent.

4) Do not suddenly stop singing when the owner of the house reaches for his wallet and pays you. Have the grace to at least finish your song. Do not show any reaction except smiles and gratitude for what is given to you.

5) If you are in a choir, prepare at least four songs.

6) Avoid singing Christmas songs the same way everyone does. Rearrange the songs with creativity, and perform them well.

7) Inform the carolees if your choir is running late. There was one Christmas when a choir who was supposed to visit our house did not call to say they would be late. I had assumed they had canceled because it was already past 12 midnight and I had not gotten any call. They showed up at 4:30 a.m. with a megaphone on their jeep; they called out my name to let them in. I totally ignored them until they left.

7) Above all, do not sing the “Tenk You” song as you leave.

8) For carolees, please do not leave the room for any reason when the choir is singing. They are there to entertain you so sit quietly and listen with appreciation. Also, prepare only a light snack for them because they will probably be eating at every house they carol in.

9) It is in poor taste to request non-Christmas songs like Wrecking Ball.

D. Staying sane during the holidays.

1) Accept that traffic is a way of life in our country and is here to stay. Plan your trips as best as you can. It can be a great way to catch up on your sleep, or play audio or video games right in your car.

2) Do not be sucked in by convention. You are not expected to give gifts to everyone.

3) Show up for Simbang Gabi if you can, even if you can’t complete it. It can be a calming experience.

4) Set up a belen at home. You can’t have only Santas and snowmen as your Yuletide décor.

5) Be aware that credit card companies generally do not bill you for expenses in the months of November and December so you don’t feel the pinch but they will slap you with your bill in January. In short, they want you to feel great ending 2014, and never mind if you get a heart attack at the start of 2015.

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