It’s Christmas!

Wait. It’s Christmas? Already?!

Wasn’t it just yesterday that you dragged out the ornament box and spent the bulk of an afternoon untangling the twinkle lights? At least, you thought about untangling the twinkle lights, but then that made-for-television holiday romantic comedy came on and, well, there was plenty of time to wrestle with the lights later.

And now, only days before Christmas, the tree remains embarrassingly naked. Except, that’s right, you never got around to getting the tree, either.

It’s not a complete crisis. You can always string lights on the loveseat and the ornaments will look festive enough when dumped into the bathroom sink. And at least you nailed your Christmas shopping list and will certainly blow minds with your gift-giving genius.

Except you didn’t! You haven’t bought a thing! Not even wrapping paper! And the first in a string of holiday parties is tonight! For goodness sake, Santa Claus is coming to town and all you’re prepared to give is a canister of oatmeal and a three-pack of sport socks. And you’ve already worn the sport socks.

Unless you have a bevy of elves at your disposal who can spring to your assistance like some Kris Kringle flash mob, you’ve got some work to do. And fast.

It’s time to pull off some last-minute holiday heroics.

LAST-MINUTE GIFTS

These are desperate times, which means the standards for your “gift-giving genius” need to be lowered a smidge. It’s darn near impossible to give the perfect gift to everyone, even when you’ve planned ahead. In a pinch, perfection goes out the window. The revised plan: Just show up with something.

There are some classic go-tos for such situations, most of which you’ve probably received from more than one Secret Santa over the years: Lottery tickets (make that a lottery ticket. Secret Santa can never resist scratching one off herself); a box of chocolates in the shape of a Christmas tree; a coffee mug with a winter theme, usually with a packet or two of instant hot chocolate shoved inside; a variety pack of scented lotion; a jar, tin, or plastic container filled to the brim with mixed nuts from the bulk bins; and a Christmas ornament involving a sled, a Santa hat, and at least one house cat.

The upside to such last-minute gifts: They’re widely available at every grocery store and Rite Aid in the country. They’re inexpensive. And they’re better than nothing. The downside: The person you give them to will also know that. And she’ll know (although she’ll never say it) that you picked that mug up on the way to her party or during your drive into the office, and you probably spent more money on a few bags of groceries and a stick of deodorant for yourself, because hey, you were there anyway.

No one should feel like an afterthought, especially at Christmas. And besides, that is not how a gift-giving genius like you rolls. You might be a present-buying procrastinator, but you’re a procrastinator who gives a hoot.

So here’s another thought: Why not give something that’s free – or nearly free, something that doesn’t require you to wait in line or battle traffic, and something that maybe – just maybe – will be one of the most memorable gifts of the holiday.

Consider giving your words. That’s it. Words. Write something kind. Put it in a letter or card or scrawl it on a cut-out piece of paper bag. Tell someone that you think they’re pretty awesome, that their humor brightens the office, that their support is invaluable, or that knowing them makes your life happier. Write something for a colleague or neighbor. Write something for a friend you’ve known for years. Write something for your mom.

It doesn’t need to rhyme or be impeccably phrased. It doesn’t need to be fancy or frilly or perfectly executed. It doesn’t need to be written with perfect penmanship. It just needs to be true. And if you feel the need to get creative with your packaging, by all means let your craft light shine, let it shine.

Use what you already have at your disposal: Paper bags, a Sharpie, the dust jacket from an old book, cardboard coasters, construction paper, used Christmas cards, or stationery you pilfered from the neighbors.

Cut things. Glue stuff. Poke holes. But most importantly, write something that matters.

It won’t be the most expensive gift your father-in-law or coworker get this year, but it might be the most appreciated. And rather than feeling like an afterthought, they will feel thought about. And no instant hot chocolate can do that.

Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

sbryan@mainetoday.com