Like many, I tend to fiercely resist the early onset of pre-Christmas fuss. Shudders wrack my spine whenever the first festive commercials creep in, and my inner grinch cringes as stores like Shoppers Drug Mart go full-throttle Xmas immediately after, if not before, Halloween. This initial marketing push just seems to bring out the more commercial, synthetic elements.

And I usually don’t quite get people who get way into it months before the actual holiday.
I can appreciate their passion.

But I don’t get it.

My personal line is anything before December 1st — I like my Christmas in December. Open and close brackets. Mike and I put up our hypnotic fibre-optic minitree, and some lights on the balcony, and then I start planning — not before.

I am facing an exception this year — I signed up to volunteer with a group called “Santa in the City”. I will go a few Saturdays, for four hour stints, leading up to Christmas, working as an “elf” in a self-described “Santa’s Workshop”. I am not 100% altruistic: pragmatically, I have wanted to do more volunteer work as a means to gain more experience and make contacts, as well as to contribute to projects that interest me.

I was told, when I arrived, to let my inner Santa out.

The organization collects letters to Santa which have been written by kids living in shelters in Toronto or who are living in poverty or with other special needs.

They are kids who probably don’t normally have a chance to find much in the way of presents under the tree, and I imagine it must be stressful and tough for their parents or grandparents to not be able to provide those wishes on their own. It is hard enough to get by and provide the basics, let alone any small treats, for so many.

Individuals or organizations “adopt” letters, buy the toys, and bring them to the workshop where we wrap them up and discretely deliver them. The point is to give the kids that special surprise at Christmas, and to allow them room to dream for big things and to have them come true.

This past Saturday, we were preparing goodies for those who donate — small, plastic swag bags of hot chocolate mix, chocolate chips and marshmallows, tied up with cranberry-coloured twist-ties. The other volunteers were sweet, and with old Christmas music in the air and hot cocoa all over me… it was hard to resist the Christmas pull.

But this was November 29th! I broke my rule, and downloaded Christmas music that same night…

I blame the cocoa.

Anyway, I think this is healthy for me…

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