Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Traditional Pre-Christmas Post

I was on the phone with a friend tonight, and she reminded me about my usual pre-Christmas blog posting. It's the day before Thanksgiving here in the U.S., not that this is any kind of starting point for Christmas gift buying anymore. I've been hearing Christmas music since Halloween, and Christmas trees and lights are already going up around the neighborhood houses and businesses. If the trend continues, we're going to start hearing about Christmas in September.

This year, unlike last year, I have been caught up in the pre-Christmas bustle. I am no less busy this year than last year, but I had a couple of weekends where I had some time to do Christmas shopping, so I did it--and finished it. All that remains this year is putting up the Christmas decorations and baking like a fiend. It's a good thing, too, because my schedule is such that I won't have time to do anything in December until the 12th at the earliest. Christmas cards are getting written over Thanksgiving vacation (God bless university shut-down days for holidays), so by the time November is over, I hope to be in good shape for the holidays.

And why not? As I noted in an earlier posting about holidays, most of the fun comes in the weeks leading up to the holiday, not the holiday itself. Christmas Day itself won't be much to talk about--the usual visit to family, opening presents--it will all be over in about 15 minutes. Then winter will come, and it will suck until Spring comes. I have a short tolerance for winter--I like some snow on Christmas, maybe the week after Christmas. By January 1st, I'm ready for Spring. By the end of the first week in January, I want the Christmas decorations taken down, and to be done with the holiday stuff.

The one oddity I've noticed year after year on Christmas Day is the behavior of my animals. Yes, I am one of those whack-jobs that buys presents for my cats. You're thinking, "Why bother? Cats don't care about Christmas." Ah, well, that's the oddity. They DO care about Christmas, or at least about Christmas presents.

Here is the scenario: I wrap Christmas presents about 2 weeks in advance, and put them under the tree. Last year, when I didn't have a tree, I still wrapped presents and left them near the spot where I would usually have a tree. This includes presents for the cats. Naturally, the cats showed a curiosity about these packages when I initially put them downstairs, and may have tried to play with them a bit, but then they usually ignored them. On Christmas morning--and this has been every Christmas morning, regardless of the cat, regardless of the externals--the cats know that something is different. I don't do anything that's different. I get up and make my breakfast as usual. On a regular morning, the cats will pester me until I get up, and then run for their food bowls. But on Christmas morning--and I am not making this up--they run over to the tree and stand by the presents. They look at the presents, and then they look at me expectantly. Even the cats in my basement seem to know--I bring them their food, and they won't eat until they see if I've brought them anything. Normally they will start scarfing down food before I've scarcely had a chance to put the bowl down. It's really weird.

I really don't know what to make of my cats' Christmas behavior. Why they would have any awareness of the holiday, especially when I don't change behavior on the day, makes no rational sense. Maybe it's purely coincidental. I tend to think it's because cats are smarter than we think, and have a greater awareness of the English language than we think (or whatever language they are raised hearing). In any case, it's a mystery.

My cat Shiva is alone in the house this year, so we'll see if he repeats the weird Christmas behavior. In the meantime, I am just hoping that my trip to Bath next weekend goes well (going to see John Foxx--what else?), and that my presentation at the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute goes well on the 8th. And it can't snow. Not til after the 14th, when I give my final exam in Religion. Thank you, Nature, for listening.

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