An older black woman sits at a snowy window wearing a bright red christmas sweater

Coping with Cancer Wearing My Ugly Christmas Sweater

A few years ago, I browsed in a bookstore, and I came across Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book by Brian Miller, Adam Paulson, and Kevin Wool. I was thumbing through the guide, looking at so-called ugly sweaters, when I discovered two of the sweaters pictured were ones that I owned. I am not making this up! One was identical, showing Santa Claus holding an American flag. The other was similar to a sweater I had with snowmen around the neck. According to the authors, I was all set for an Ugly Christmas Sweater party.

I once had a visitor in my home on Christmas Eve who snickered and said, "You sure have a lot of Christmas decorations." When you are a guest in someone's home, you should say only nice things. Besides, I wouldn't walk into her house, look around and ask, "Is your vacuum cleaner broken?"

After my blood cancer diagnosis in 2017, I didn't have as much energy to decorate, so I have scaled-down. I sold a lot of my holiday decorations or gave them away. I still want to enjoy Christmas, so here are some of my suggestions.

K I S S - Keep it simple, silly!

Sometimes we have to lower our expectations. Don't think your celebration has to mirror what you see on television or how you believe your coworkers celebrate with their families. Don't complain about having to buy presents for people; you are lucky to have people in your life. Wouldn't you prefer to buy gifts than flowers to lay on their graves? Of course, you would!

Rethink why so many gifts. I taught elementary students for 39 years. Yes, students came back from Christmas break excited about some of their presents, but they loved spending time with their grandparents and cousins. Good times are what they will remember. Instead of buying stuff, why not plan an outing that all will enjoy? It might be going to a movie or out to eat.

Gift cards

I have heard people talk against gift cards, complaining it's saying, "Go buy your own presents!" Well, that's fine with me. One year, my coworkers had a gift card exchange party. Everyone brought a ten dollar gift card, and we drew numbers when it was our turn to select a hidden card. (Many cards were fast-food restaurants in our area.) No one minded when we did some trading later.

White elephants

Some of the best gift exchanges I have been to were "White Elephant" parties. A white elephant is something you already have in your house that you don't want. You guessed it; it is often something that you received as a gift. It's a fun way to regift.

Crazy socks

It is best to draw names for this one; then you buy socks that match their personality. Maybe they love purple. Buy them some purple socks. Be sure to take a photo of everyone wearing their socks.

Coffee mugs

This one is fun for the office, but it takes some planning ahead of time. You draw names, then buy that person a mug that matches their personality or interests. Maybe they love flowers, so you buy a cup with flowers on it or find a cup with a photo of their favorite movie or television show.

I think we like to decorate at Christmas because the days are shorter and usually colder. The leaves are off the trees, so we add color by decorating. It's just a way to cheer ourselves.

When I deliver for Meals on Wheels in December, I always wear a Christmas sweater. No one has ever told me it was ugly! I hear, "How cute! You look like a walking Christmas tree!" Have fun wearing your Christmas attire. Play all the Christmas music you want. Eat fruitcake, if you like it. Think about the real reason for the season. Christmas is about love!

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