Six months before Christmas, I first saw the signs — shopping malls had traded palm trees for pines.

 By August, “Jingle Bells” from speakers did blare in hopes that the shoppers soon would be there.

 Then came Halloween, with Santas in caps; and merchants wrapped pumpkins in bright Christmas wraps.

 Soon all the newspapers took up the same tack –“Yuletide Joy GUARANTEED… or your money back.”

 Bloomingdale’s offered bathrobes, draped in pink spotted sash. “Buy one to help Mom greet the day with panache!”

 Kmart sold Barbies, with bleached-blonde perky glow; “Real cute up top” said the ad, “and stacked down below!”

 Toy shops sold tommy-guns for shooting paint at the dog; the supermarkets sold troughs of diet eggnog.

 By Thanksgiving the frenzy had gotten vicious and sick; over the first sale on anything, shoppers would bite, claw, and kick.

 Meanwhile, grandma’s kitchen revived a stale story — like the Phoenix from fire, arose the fruitcake in glory.

 TV showed the “specials,” each one still the same, only now they have action figures (sponsors list them by name!)

 “Buy DASHER and DANCER!  Buy PRANCER and VIXEN! Get COMET and CUPID and DONDER and BLITZEN!”

 (Maybe it’s venison Grandmom should be fixing.)

 By Christmas Eve, please believe, I’d had more than enough. Go ahead, call me Scrooge — but who BUYS all this stuff?

 All the commercials, the carols, the guilt-laden cards; all the neon-like lights draped in neighborhood yards.

 And here’s me, among boxes, still wrapping my last; with paper cuts and prayers that this season should pass.

 My wife’s finished wrapping; she was done long ago. Her paper’s creased neatly, her ribbons in bows.

 How does she do it? I still can’t comprehend. My presents look lumpy, paper torn at both ends.

 And ribbons I’ve tied show embarrassing slack… like I’d sent presents to Hell, had them wrapped, and sent back.

 By midnight that night — ’twas Christmas Eve — most of my senses had taken their leave.

 So I stepped out back for air and leaned on a car. That’s when I saw it — a tiny white star.

 Cliché? Contrived? A vision too “nice?” I stepped up to see it… then slipped on some ice.

 “Godd*mn it!” I said, even “Humbug!” and worse; every word in the book you could define as a curse.

 A window flew open, my wife shocked by the clatter; “Honey” she called, “is something the matter?”

 And then, a whisper, from a boy four years old “Is that you, Santa?” he breathed out in the cold.

 Dear Reader, perhaps you don’t share my elation, but in that small moment, you see, I found revelation.

 ’twas small like a flicker, far-off as the star. An inkling, just then, of why wise men go far;

 Of why mothers start baking, why carolers sing, and why three once brought gifts to one child king;

 Why, every Christmas, we share things and confections, with the hope of redemption for unspoken affections.

 You see, I realized that while our lives are adrift, we can at least find foundation in one simple gift;

 A gift as elusive as the world she is round, And one I don’t name, for it’s far too profound,

 But you can hear it hinted in phrase that seems right, “A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”