Making It All the Way Through Christmas

After the presents are unwrapped and the tinsel is tossed, what do you do with the rest of your day? Maybe a survival guide will help. Luke Burbank reports.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Coming up on the program: A renowned maker of French horns retires. First though, what to do after Christmas morning? By now, you've probably opened all your presents and you're staring down a pile of wrapping paper and boxes and a long day ahead.

As the oldest of seven children, NPR's Luke Burbank knows the feeling all too well.

(Soundbite of music)

LUKE BURBANK: So there you are, sailing a seed of shredded wrapping paper, cut in the doldrums. Christmas morning is over. Was this what all the excitement was about? At a sweater your Aunt Gert(ph) gave you, the one featuring two cats wrestling with the ball of a yarn. You didn't ask for that. The kids have already stolen all the batteries out of the remote controls so they can power their toys.

Then there's your brother-in-law, the one who won't stop pitching you on his latest pyramid scheme. That's not going to get old. And it's only 9:30 a.m. This is shaping up to be a long day.

(Soundbite of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”)

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As voice of Charlie Brown): I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus, I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.

BURBANK: But hark, a Christmas miracle cometh. We here at DAY TO DAY have compiled these handy tips to getting you through the next 10 hours of your life.

(Soundbite of song “Back Door Santa”)

Mr. CLARENCE CARTER (Singer): (Singing) They call me Back Door Santa, I made my wrongs about the break of day.

BURBANK: First things first. You need a plan for returning that sweater. And it's going to be harder this year than in years past, says retail expert Jennifer Litwin.

Ms. JENNIFER LITWIN (Retail Expert): People are trying to return gifts that they don't want and are finding out the hard way that they won't get their money back.

BURBANK: Because of an increase in fraudulent returns, Litwin says the big stores anyway are getting tougher with their policies.

Ms. LITWIN: They're giving people this year, about a two- to three-week window, but you can't open any of the packaging. You can't open the boxes. You can't unwrap anything. And you have to keep your receipts.

BURBANK: Even if you have one, some stores are now charging a 15 percent restocking fee. And if someone asks how you like that present they gave you, the one you actually did manage to return, Litwin says you have one choice.

Ms. LITWIN: You have to lie. Tell them that you're having it tailored, or it's at the dry cleaners, or something like that.

BURBANK: Christmas, a time of joy, a time of laughter, a time of lying to your Aunt Gert.

(Soundbite of song, “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”)

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath -

BURBANK: Speaking of family, sure you love them, but there's a reason you don't live with them anymore. And Christmas afternoon can be a reminder why.

Ms. SUE BORSIN(ph) (Psychiatrist, University of Washington): Everything isn't perfect between me and my brother-in-law, or me and my mom, or me and my sister.

BURBANK: Psychiatrist Sue Borsin teaches at the University of Washington. She says the key to avoiding arguments when you and your family are trapped in the same house is keeping busy - Chop some wood. Take a walk. Read a book.

Ms. BORSIN: Anything that structures that time up until the end of the day when you're going to have dinner together will help reduce that stress and make you restore your sense of confidence.

(Soundbite of movie, “It's A Wonderful Life”)

Mr. JAMES STEWART (Actor): (As George Bailey) Bert, what do you know about that? Merry Christmas.

BURBANK: But what if all that still isn't enough? What if you plotted out your gift returns? You've chopped all the trees in the yard. You've gone to your imaginary happy place. And you're still feeling like you might lose it.

(Soundbite of music)

BURBANK: It maybe time to plot an escape - a quick trip to a local watering hole where they don't drink water.

Unidentified Man #4: Tattle Tale Cocktail Lounge.

BURBANK: A place like the Tattle Tale in Culver City, California, owned for the past 43 years by one of my favorite people in the world, Roger Lowell(ph).

Mr. ROGER LOWELL (Owner, Tattle Tale Lounge, Culver City, California): My Christmas wish for the New Year, Luke, would be for you to get a new shirt. It is short, it's wrinkled and I wondered who it fit - but we're done with it.

BURBANK: As he does every other day, Roger will open the Tattle Tale's doors at 6 a.m. Christmas morning.

Mr. LOWELL: To provide a service to those people that don't have a family here in town.

BURBANK: Or have a family, but don't want to see them anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LOWELL: Possible also. That does occur.

BURBANK: And while they're there, they'll be enjoying the Tattle Tale signature Christmas drink.

Mr. LOWELL: Brandy eggnog?

BURBANK: Yes, a brandy eggnog. But be careful, they make them strong. Oh, man, that will put hair on your chest.

Mr. LOWELL: Would that put some hair on my head as well?

BURBANK: I don't think. If Jesus himself was born today at the Tattle Tale, I don't think he could put hair on your head, Rog, but...

Mr. LOWELL: But thank you for that commentary. That's very…

BURBANK: That's for the shirt comment.

Mr. LOWELL (Unintelligible) nothing will make up for the shirt.

BURBANK: Merry Christmas.

Mr. LOWELL: Thank you, Merry Christmas to you, as well.

BURBANK: So there you have it. You've survived another Christmas. And just think, you won't have to do it again for 364 days.

(Soundbite of music)

Luke Burbank, NPR News.

BRAND: You know where to find Luke today. More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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