1. You can get your tree at the last possible minute from that guy, freezing his ass off, with like four lopsided trees left in the lot. You can leave it up for weeks or take it down in just a few days. You can decorate it with heirloom ornaments or condoms or the little envelopes of spare buttons that come with new clothes or things you found in the recycling bin. You can hang the lights but no ornaments because your kids won’t help. You can totally skip the tree part of the tree and just hang the tangled lights, half-dark, in a knot from the ceiling fixture. You can just not do the tree thing completely, but you’ll certainly regret not taking one of the aluminum trees when you and your brothers went through your mom’s stuff.
2. You can make a comprehensive list and hand-made gifts for all the people in your life, including your old nanny who feels like family after all these years. You can also stop at 7-11 on the way over Xmas Eve and bring a six-pack. You can forget to get gifts for anyone this year because, you know what? there’s always next year.
3. You can send beautifully printed custom holiday cards with a professional photo of your family and your dog in matching seasonal sweaters. You can send a long, rambling letter to an old friend. You can do a cheery year-end letter with all your children’s fencing team triumphs and your promotion described in charming language. You can send a cheap drug-store card that will shower microscopic particles of glitter on the recipient too late for Xmas but just in time for New Year’s. You can skip cards this year, because you don’t want to have to think about someone you lost, or can’t find the right way to describe how you struggled working for that asshole.
4. You can leave cookies and 7-Up for Santa on Xmas Eve, when you hang your stockings. You can decide that Uncle Lenin brings the gifts, or that Santa is a black man, or gay, or both. Maybe your gifts come from Rudolf, or Mrs. Claus. Maybe this year you decide to open them on Xmas Eve.
5. You can make the special lavish traditional meals that are expected of you every year, so that you don’t really get to enjoy Xmas day at all, what with the preparations and table-setting with the special dishes. You can go get Chinese food, too, or make chili because everyone likes chili.
6. You can wear your tacky holiday sweater vest that is so bad it’s not even humorous, or just stay in your pajamas all day. You can opt not to wrap presents this year, extracting them at the appropriate moment from the shopping bags, pulling the tags off as you hand them over. You can hand a fat wad of cash to the child who never got around to asking you for anything gift-wise.
7. You can hit every party you’re invited to, bringing a very decent bottle of Oregon pinot noir with a gorgeous red velvet bow around it. You can greet the host and hostess by the wrong names and then get drunk in the corner by the ham. You can lie to anyone you meet and claim to be a screenwriter and leave early because you’ve got to get home to your sick hedgehog because if he doesn’t get his meds every four hours he won’t make it to New Year’s.
8. You can refuse to watch sports on Xmas day. You can treat the day as a religious holiday and be really indignant about all the commercialism. You can be grateful for Jesus as a cool idea because even though you’re not sure you even believe in God or religion, you really like the part about forgiveness and loving others.
9. You can decide to give money to your favorite non-profit at year-end, realizing that without that public radio station, your commute would be even more lonely and soul-sucking. You can stop feeling guilty about not donating to things you care about because even though you support Planned Parenthood, you might have actually had a tougher year than them financially.
10. You can re-gift without guilt, or even acquire white elephant gifts on purpose so there is a game to play on Xmas night, after everyone is full and feeling slightly agitated. A cube-shaped gift box makes a decent improvised die, and you can write “Take one,” “Steal,” “Take Two,” etc. on the various faces of it. You can even steer your sister-in-law towards the perfectly wrapped and beribboned box of dryer lint, not out of meanness but because you simply want to hear her really laugh.
11. You can spend the weeks before Xmas obsessing about your mother who was annoying and intimidating in her love of Xmas. You can be grumpy about the whole season because you’ll never be as good at Xmas as she was, with her hundred rolls of different wrapping paper and ribbons in every color and tiny gift cards depicting animals in Victorian clothes. You can hate Xmas. Or you can take it or leave it.