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Last week I mentioned that I still hadn’t gotten around to getting anything together for Christmas yet. Well, another week has gone by and I still don’t have the tree up. That’s mostly because I have a tree down instead. Last week’s windstorm blew half of the huge limbs off my 60 ft. box elder tree and sent them crashing down into my roof and the row of motorcycles parked in my driveway. Somehow they managed to miss both cars and the backrest of my old Honda V65 saved the two Harleys from getting much damage. Basically I got out of this with one headlight creamed and a minor dent in a front fender. Another pine tree cushioned some of the impact of the limbs that hit the roof so nothing came crashing through into the attic. I’ll have to replace a few shingles but that’s not as bad as it could have been. We were really very lucky.

I’ve been out there for days with a chainsaw and ladders so, truthfully, I’ve kind of had enough of dealing with trees, so putting up a Christmas one is probably going to happen at the last minute once again. At least this year I have a better excuse, right?

By the time you read this, everything will be ready for the holiday. See? I’m an eternal optimist. Hopefully your stuff will be too. But, if not, just remember … There’s twelve days of Christmas and Christmas Day is only the first one. You get an additional eleven days to hope that gift you ordered shows up in time.

Looking forward a bit, the next thing you have to worry about is New Year’s Eve and Day. Usually that’s not really a worry, it’s just planning on doing something fun with friends or family. But, this year its still a little more tricky than usual. Mask mandates are back, new COVID variants are out there and quite frankly I hesitate to recommend doing anything that might involve people getting into a big crowd of strangers and risking getting sick. That’s a decision people have to make for themselves, and those kinds of events are publicized so much that if that’s where you want to go, you already know where and when they are happening.

Instead, I would recommend scaling it down a bit for another year. Smaller groups of friends and family that you know and have a better idea about their attitude and approach to vaccinations and masks. If you’re cavalier about the whole thing, then you can gather with like-minded individuals. If you are more cautious, then you have a better idea of who you are coming into contact with and act accordingly. The last thing you need is to start 2022 with an argument about protocols with inebriated strangers.

So, with that in mind, I started looking for great ideas of alternative things to do. That started out a little disappointing. “Make a list of New Years resolutions”, “Declutter your house for a clean start”, “Watch the Times Square ball drop.” Those are suggestions? Eh, some people have no imagination.

Here’s a couple of better ideas. First of all, jazz up your own party with something fun. How about putting together a home photo booth? Pick a wall, decorate it with a couple of chairs and some 2022 stuff, you can find that at the dollar stores, then let people use their own cell phone cameras to make some memories.

How about putting together your own dance list of festive tunes for the occasion, then clearing a spot for a dance floor at home? Who needs a DJ? All they do is put together their own list of songs and just play them. Half of them don’t even have a microphone to talk to the crowd. You can do that on your phone or music app. That will amuse you for a few days ahead of time too. If you get on it right away, you can also find some cool flashing lights that are inexpensive to add to the mix.

But, most importantly, take a few minutes to be happy that you made it through another year, remember those you know who didn’t and look forward to making 2022 the best year ever. Oh, and don’t forget to open your front door to let the old year out and the new one in. I don’t know … That’s a tradition from my wife’s side of the family. I had no idea what she was doing the first year we were home together.

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at jaimaging@aol.com