, Salem, MA

December 20, 2012

Column: A sleigh full of social media musings

Mary Alice

---- — Being on Facebook has its advantages, especially when you need some lighthearted column ideas, and you need them fast because you still have all your Christmas shopping left to do.

Herewith some pressing holiday topics suggested by my ever-helpful Facebook friends:

LED lights. This can be an emotionally charged issue. A few years ago, my husband strung these energy-saving lights on our Christmas tree (yes, I’m talking indoors). He was immediately asked by the chief decorator (me) to soften their glow by removing half of them and installing a dimmer switch adjusted to the lowest possible setting. It is my belief that no women were ever consulted in the creation of these lights, which are best suited to outdoor, remote, wooded locations.

Does having an elf on your shelf promote the idea of Big Brother watching and is this healthy for kids? My children are of the pre-elf generation, but I feel for young parents wondering whether to embrace this new holiday tradition that involves a mischievous toy elf who moves about the house. I don’t think there’s any research yet about the long-term effects of being told an elf ate all your Christmas cookies or finished making your jigsaw puzzle. Heck, I still believe in Santa and worry he could place me on his naughty list at any minute, so I’m probably not the best person to ask.

Yankee swaps. I have a friend who says certain members of her Yankee swap crowd decided they didn’t want to participate in the swap this year because of the sorry gifts they received last year, such as pre-scratched losing lottery tickets or library books that were wrapped up and offered as gifts. And she reports all sorts of unbecoming behavior, like demanding that folks show receipts to enforce the minimum spending requirement. I say to these people, you really need to get in the right spirit. Santa’s watching!

Re-gifting. I wouldn’t risk the perils of re-gifting unless your friends and family live far away and will never visit you and see that you aren’t using their gifts, and will never visit another of your friends and family’s homes and find the gifts they gave you there. And if you do choose to re-gift, you better make sure your memory is intact and you aren’t sending someone something they previously sent to you.

White lights vs. colored. I always planned to decorate our older home with tasteful white lights and lovely wreaths in the windows, but when you have kids, nothing ever goes as planned. Let’s just say our home would never be featured on any holiday house tour. That’s OK, though, because when you’re driving around looking at Christmas lights, your attention is drawn to the “interesting” ones, like pink or lime green, while the white ones inspire nothing but yawns. And while I’m not a fan of those lighted inflatable lawn ornaments, many kids are, so who am I to judge?

Free holiday concerts are plentiful so take advantage of them. Amen to this admitted self-promotion from a well-known trumpet player plugging The Orchestra On The Hill and Festival Choir’s free concert at the Ipswich Performing Arts Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Other free concerts: The Beverly High School Music Department’s winter concert tonight at 7 in the school auditorium and the North Shore Jazz Project All-Stars performing Ellington at Chianti in Beverly tomorrow at 7:30. In my completely unbiased opinion, the goosebumps I get on my arm at hearing just the right blending of musical poetry make life worth living so being “too busy” is a poor excuse for missing out.

The Winter Solstice. This event, occurring Dec. 21, lasts only a moment: the precise time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon (unless the Mayans are right and the world ends that day). Following the solstice, the hours of daylight each day grow longer, and thank goodness for that!

Who made the stupid rule that women must take on the extra full-time job of “doing Christmas,” spending every free moment shopping or running errands and making themselves into basket cases? At the risk of sounding like a bitter and resentful Grinch or one who views this festive season as something to be gotten through, crossed off the list and “Full-power, Rudolph!” I’ll refrain from answering.

Why do all the great holiday classic movies involve men changing their attitudes? And how come they don’t change until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day when all the work is done instead of around Thanksgiving when their newfound Christmas spirit could be put to good use? No idea, but if you find out the answers to these excellent questions, please Facebook me.

Merry Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice and Festivus to you and yours! Let’s respect and embrace others’ traditions. And to whomever I’m offending by using the words “Facebook” and “Christmas,” God bless us, every one!


Mary Alice Cookson is a Beverly-based columnist. She welcomes comments at