Now that December is here, I feel a bit more comfortable proclaiming my unabashed and overwhelming love of all things Christmas.
Like most people, I grumbled a bit about seeing Christmas items tucked behind Halloween costumes and decorations in October, but a small part of me was grinning, knowing my favorite holiday was waiting around the corner.
The day after stuffing myself silly on Thanksgiving, I created a new holiday-themed station on the online radio I listen to and in the car I flip between local radio stations searching for the ones that are playing holiday music.
Although it's not up yet, I'm anticipating my tiny artificial Christmas tree will soon emerge from its home in my non-clothes closet, decked out in my growing collection of ornaments.
And I've started brainstorming gifts that my family will open around my parents' tree Christmas morning. My goal this year is to buy everything from local businesses, inspired by my recent articles on Small Business Saturday and similar endeavors.
There are lots of things about the holiday season that annoy me, of course - rampant consumerism, the overwhelming need of some people to trade in their last shreds of decent humanity for the chance to pepper spray fellow shoppers over a video game, people around me needlessly stressing themselves out over the need to shower others with the perfect gifts (it's very definitely the thought that counts).
All that holiday-related tangential garbage is like someone offering to make you a delicious meal and handing you a plate of plastic toy fruits and vegetables. It isn't the real thing.
Ignoring the aspects I don't enjoy so much, Christmas is definitely one of my favorite -alright, favorite - holiday.
Saturday, I kicked off my own Christmas cheer by manning a two-hour shift at Ishpeming's Shopko Hometown store with a red Salvation Army apron, bell and kettle.
Prior to Saturday, I'd only been a bell ringer once for a high school-related volunteer hour requirement. In the past few years, I've been in pretty close contact with the Salvation Army branches in Ishpeming and Marquette because I had been the reporter assigned to write articles on The Mining Journal's annual Cheer Club toy drive. Usually I'd throw in a story or two each year about the need for people to volunteer to be bell ringers and think to myself, "Hey, that's something I should do."
This year the Cheer Club duties have been passed to another reporter, but I've finally followed through with my volunteer aspirations.
Having written all those Cheer Club articles, though, particularly those about the big toy giveaways close to Christmas, I've seen what a difference the Salvation Army and other organizations, like St. Vincent de Paul, makes in the lives of people. I've been lucky enough to not have gone through life without an abundance of gifts at Christmas or an empty stomach. But there are people in Marquette County who do face those situations.
This year, if you can, buy a toy and donate it. Or pick up some extra canned goods and donate them. If you have time, volunteer to ring a bell for a couple hours.
And if you put some money in the kettle at Ishpeming's Shopko Saturday, thanks.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.