I'm not sure when St. Nick's Day became a big deal.
Growing up, for St. Nick's Day, we received a tangerine, a candy cane and a walnut.
Maybe a quarter.
A pack of Life Savers.
We learned in Catholic grade school not to believe the lyrics of all the holiday songs and poems.
St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are not one and the same, the old nuns lectured.The story of Santa Claus started here in the United States. St. Nick's Day was a bigger deal in Europe. Kids there traditionally received small gifts in their shoes left overnight near the fireplace.
Funny. We followed that European holiday tradition in the Mackin childhood home, too. St. Nick left treats in our tennis shoes, left near our beds because we didn't have a fireplace.
I hope he washed his hands afterward.
Anyone who touched my smelly, wet pair of P.F. Flyers deserved sainthood.
I had one pair of tennis shoes and wore them until they had holes in them. Rain. Snow. Sunshine. School sports. Recess. Church. Squeak, Squeak. Here I come!
We were good with small, simple gifts left in our tennis shoes because, surprise --it was better than just plain, ol' smelly tennis shoes in the morning.
Besides,no one at school received anything big for St. Nick's Day.
No one was shopping on Black Friday, either.
Or camping out in a store's parking lot to be first in line.
Somewhere along the line, St. Nick won the lottery, andtangerines, candy canes andwalnuts trasnformed into iTunes cards, clothes and video games.
This is not intended to be another one of my "back in the good old days growing up in East St. Louis" columns. But nowadays, I hear from more and more people who are tired of the over-commercialization of the holiday season. They want to get back to the basics, when the holidays were more simple and fun.
I don't know what to tell them except, "What's stopping you?"
I have work to do to minimize my holiday expectations this time every year.Occasionally, I still get hypeduptrying to recapture the innocence and simplicity of my youth. Big mistake. Different world today.But here are a few, simple, free resolutions I've made again this holiday season to help keep my holiday season simple:
I won't over-use cool holiday words like "hark" or "Feliz Navidad."
I won't lie and tell everyone how good a cup of cold eggnog tastes. Eggnog. That's a funny name, huh?
I won't wear a hat that has a ball on its end. No adult should, really.
I will not wear a piece of clothing that I made or decorated myself. Or that someone made or decorated especially for me. I'm appreciative. But generally, holidays or not, I don't like my clothes to leave a trail of glitter and cotton balls.
Same for those cartoonish holiday socks. They may work well for women. And look cute on kids. Or vice versa. But guys over age 12 look downright foolish in holiday socks.
I will wear a holiday tie one day to work. Nothing tacky. No Grinch or Snoopy. Snowmen and Santa are cool, though.
I will give a little more to the bell ringers in front of local retail stores. Especially those bellringers with unique spirit. Singing. Dancing. Tastefully. Greet me and everyone else with a holiday smile.
I will confess upfront. That's not powder or dandruff on my new black sweater. I ate all the pecan balls. Like popcorn. Started and could not stop.
I'll listen to Christmas musicin moderation. I won't sing along, imitating Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole or Bruce Springsteen. Not in public anyway. I'll hum, though.
I pledge not to shop at any retail store before 7 a.m. or after midnight, any day of the week. Except for Quik Trip. Holiday gift idea: A gift card to the local Quik Trip. You can't go wrong at a place where there's plenty for your car and stomach.
I'll surprise at least one person holding a "Help me. I'm homeless" sign at the busy intersection's stop sign. Not a lottery. But enough for lunch.
I'll watch holiday TV favorites like "The Christmas Story." But only once of the 575 times itwill be aired on TBS from now until Christmas Day.And I'll laugh like the first time I saw it.
On New Year's Eve, I won't bang our pots and pans on the back porch at midnight, unless someone else in the neighborhood does it first. A good kitchen pot bangingmight feel good after a particularly stressful day.
I won't over-do it on St. Nick's Day Thursday, Dec. 6. ButI might lay out my cleanest sneakers, near the fireplace, just in case he stops by to reminisce.