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Procrastinators like me put off Christmas preparations until Christmas Eve, more or less. Our family makes up for it by celebrating the holiday right through Jan. 6, or Epiphany, when the three kings were said to have brought gifts to the Christ child.

“Living Here,” January 2, 2011

Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas!

Yes, we’re serious about stretching out the holiday all the way to the 6th of January. We’ve been doing it for nearly 40 years, since we were newlyweds.

At the time, our parents lived in three different households in two different states. There was no way we could spend Christmas Day with all of them. Even Christmas Eve at one house, Christmas Day at another, and New Year’s at a third was a logistical problem. When we became parents, the problem became a nightmare.

Parents are generous at Christmastime, and grandparents even more so. The only way we could avoid the Christmas morning gift orgy, the sugar high of giving and getting, was to spread things out.

“Let’s give presents for the entire twelve days of Christmas,” my wife suggested.

I stared at her in disbelief. “There’s no way we can afford twelve gifts for each kid, let alone each other.”

She pointed out that a gift doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be something simple. My mother used to give me underwear and Lifesavers Sweet Story Books in addition to the must-have toy of the season.

So we tried it, and it worked better than we expected. The kids (and we) actually savored the present du jour instead of tossing it aside for the next biggest package. And the grandparents got their chance to be the stars of the day.

Now that the kids are all grown with places of their own, the plan still works, in reverse. We visit them, they visit us, when we can during the twelve days of Christmas. It gives each of us the chance to savor the time together instead of competing for presents and stressing over deadlines. There’s no real problem if that mail-order present doesn’t arrive by December 24th.

Plus it gives procrastinators like me until Christmas Eve to get the decorations up, and until right about now to get the cards in the mail.

Want to read more of the column quoted above? You can, online, at Newslibrary.com. Under Advanced Search, search for “Howard Fielding” in All Text, “Republican-American” in Source, and “January 2, 2011” in Date.