So, like you, we stumble into the holidays in an advanced state of not knowing. We've often used this space to complain about how far back into the depths of the year the holiday season has extended; we never dreamed we would have to worry about Election Day slithering in the opposite direction. Thus, as the nation puzzles over the thin line separating the glorious expression of the popular will that is the foundation of our republic from, say, accidentally voting for Pat Buchanan, we celebrate those things we do know.
The winking fat man to the right, of course, knows when we've been sleeping, he knows when we're awake, he knows if we've been bad or good. He probably knows for whom we meant to vote, for goodness' sake. And he knows this: On Dec. 21, or 22, or 25, or 26, or maybe even some other day, depending on your cosmological view of things, people will express to you what you mean to them, and you will reciprocate. We know (or at least we like to think we know) that this is what the winking fat man is all about, and it is the certainty of these things--of exchanging gifts both tangible and intangible--that sustains us through the long days and cold nights of Web surfing, mall parking, and gift wrapping to come. Not to mention the unspeakable tragedy of not knowing whom the next president will be, which, considering the choice we have, maybe isn't so bad after all.
Here's some other stuff we know. You'll find a smorgasbord of gift ideas both naughty and nice. Afterward, Michelle Gienow plumbs the mystery of the Baltimore holiday train garden, Michael Anft consults a master of the Santa-for-hire trade, and Adele Marley explores the majesty of the living Nativity. And from this page unspools our annual calendar of things to do with yourself right up to New Year's Day. In case you don't know.
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