Ask Ceil – Shopping List

Dear Ceil,

Should I start my Christmas shopping now, or is that too early?

Fashionably late in Florham Park

Dear Fashionably,

No, you can absolutely wait until Christmas eve to go shopping. Many people, including those near and dear to me, have not started shopping yet either.

To help you get through the next day or so, here are some tips.

  1. Make sure you’re at the entrance of the store at least 3 hours before they open the doors. If you are bringing anything to keep yourself warm or entertained, you’re going to want to make sure that it’s lightweight and portable. First, because you might be the only one in the parking lot; but you might not. If you’re not, you should be able to park, then grab your gear and run to the door. Second, when you are stepping over other shoppers that have tripped, you’re going to want to be agile. The last thing you need is a portable coffee maker dragging you down.

    Remember: if a store says they have something on sale for an incredible price, they only have four in stock for the sole purpose of being able to advertise them, to get you in the store. Make sure you are shopper number three. (Disclaimer: Ask Ceil does not recommend sitting outside in the cold for extended periods of time.)

  2. Before you go to bed tonight, do some pushups to build your upper body strength. You never know when you’re going to need to pull a person off the very last set of pots and pans, set on sale for $50 (Holy cow! Fifty bucks! What a steal! Is that Calphalon?), or when you’ll need to pull a person off the person who is on the very last set of pots and pans. Also useful for throwing an elbow. Make sure the referees aren’t watching. (Disclaimer #2: Ask Ceil does not recommend violence during the holiday of giving.)

  3. Two words: Carb load. Tonight for dinner, eat one-quarter your weight in pasta, rice or bread. If you are planning on shopping until you drop, you will be able to drop much later in the day. (Disclaimer #3: If you eat that much starch, you will probably throw up and / or contract diabetes instantly. FYI.)

  4. Make sure you have a Life Alert necklace with you, so that when you eventually drop, you can tell someone that you’ve fallen, and you can’t get up. (Always a good idea.)

  5. You will want to wear one of those shirts that are so popular these days that say “Don’t Tread On Me.” First, because the snake is pretty intimidating and will scare some people away, allowing you more room to navigate the aisles. Second, when you fall down, you will want to remind people not to step directly on you. (Soon coming out with my own shirt: “Don’t trample on me to death.”)

  6. Always be kind and courteous. If people trust you, they won’t suspect that you will swipe the last set of pots and pans they’d gotten, as they turn their back to look at the bargain-priced Garmins. (That’s the Christmas spirit!)


Dear Ceil,

Does Santa really make a list and check it twice?

Wondering in Whiting

Dear Wondering,

No, Santa actually checks his list five times.

Like the legal system, you are nice until Santa proves you naughty.

There are secret elves that wander through the streets collecting names of bad people all year. Frankly, most people blow the Santa list on New Year’s eve, really only making it for a week on the “Nice” list. His tech division also compiles data from all public and private cameras. Most of these elves are actually Ewoks from Return of the Jedi. Though they secretly hate themselves, they soothe their egos late at night by stealing plastic army guys from Santa’s Workshop, turning on flashlights and pretending they are Wookies. (Don’t tell anyone.)

The second check comes when the tech elves pass the data through the state ID databases and facial recognition software. Here they match naughty deeds to actual people, correcting any data entry issues.

Third, Mrs. Claus goes through the list alphabetically, and removes anyone who’s on their holiday card list. I mean seriously, how would that look if those people didn’t get a present from Santa. Downright embarrassing, that would be.

Fourth, depending on the productivity of the Workshop, some people are added or subtracted from the naughty list. Hey, if there’s supply, it’s got to go somewhere. This is where most of the “non-violent” naughties (usually pot-smokers) get back on the list. Unfortunately if the Workshop is running behind, Santa has to go a little harder on us (forgot to put down the toilet seat? D’oh! Sucks for you!) Hey, a bunch of little men can only work so hard, you know?

Fifth, Santa himself checks the list. This is where he makes adjustments based on how you behaved while you were on line to visit Santa at the mall. Oh, he knows. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a parent or a kid. (“I said only one lollipop to a person!”)

And in case you’re wondering, if you don’t believe in Santa anymore because you haven’t seen a present from him in a while… watch yourself on New Year’s Eve and you might get lucky next year!


Ceil Kessler spends many of her days trying to figure out where the day went. Then she settles back with a nice glass of scotch and watches old B-movies. Other times she writes while listening to Christmas music—and thinks fondly of the day that she will be able to sit on a beach and have a smiling Tom Cruise serve her drinks in hollowed-out coconut shells with little umbrellas in them.

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2 thoughts on “Ask Ceil – Shopping List

Add yours

  1. Personally I like to shop all through the year, then if someone moves from my ‘nice’ list to my naughty list I get to keep the present for myself. That’s what I call WINNING 😉

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