Handle With Care: The Secret Life of Christmas Magazines

Beware of Christmas Magazines

What about home decor? Are you really going to decorate not only a tree--or two or three--but also every shelf, surface, chair back, tabletop, bookcase, mantle and window sill in the house? Dissatisfaction!

Wait a minute--you there, in the back! You say you are going to decorate all those places? Well, the CM has a surprise for you! What about your window boxes? Have you made your cunning painted wood cutouts to stick in your window boxes yet? Dissatisfaction!

In the world of the CM, it's not enough to have a tree, lovingly garlanded with the grubby little products of your children's' hands. No, you've got to have designer trees, covered at regular intervals with precisely tied bows, evenly spaced lights, and antique gold angel ornaments that cost more than the dining room suite.

Your gift wrap must be color-coordinated (and costly-with the only "out" being "hand-crafted" gift wrap) and must harmonize with the "design motif" of your decorator tree (or trees!). You can't just hang up stockings--they've got to be needle-pointed, at the very least, with the child's name blazoned on the front in gold letters.

Food's not exempt, either! Look at the food ads, then look at the recipes. No humble chocolate chip or oatmeal drop cookies here. Instead, you're swirling cranberry-orange concoctions that oh-so-coincidentally feature the exact product advertised on the facing page!

Even the place you lay your weary head doesn't escape the attention of the CM. Under a picture of an elaborately decorated and beruffled pillow, the CM rhapsodizes: "It's the big night, and what better place to dream of dancing sugar plums than on a pretty, hand-embroidered pillow?" Great--you get to wake up with the marks of French knots all over your face! Won't that make lovely Christmas morning photographs?

Dissatisfied yet? No matter what you do, what you spend, how long you craft and bake and make, you're never, never, never going to achieve a CM Christmas.

Why should you? Why should you want to?

Here's the secret. Turn to the editorial masthead, the place where they list the magazine's staff and contributors. Count the names. Count the number of departments.

Scores, even hundreds of people are bustling around full-time for months to produce these publications--and they're experts!

Expecting to follow single-handed in their footsteps is a sure-fire recipe for holiday stress. Knowing your limits--and setting firm boundaries--gives you permission to do less and enjoy it more.

Christmas magazines: handle with care! They'll manipulate your emotions, prey on your vulnerabilities, and lead you down the candy cane path to the gingerbread house if you let them.

Christmas magazines are just like every other dangerous instrumentality in life. Like automobiles, they'll take you where you want to go--if you know how to drive. Like alcohol, they'll liven up your holiday spirit--if not taken to excess. Buy them, read them, use them--but do so with full awareness of the risks involved! In Christmas, as in life, knowledge is power!

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