. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ready or not, we’re in the holiday home stretch.

Every year around this time, people fill in conversation gaps with expressions along the lines of “I can’t believe it’s here again already,” but there’s a good reason for that – they really can’t.

I firmly believe the holidays exist in a rip in the space-time continuum. How else do you explain the fact that, five minutes ago, you were heading to the store to buy Halloween candy and now you’re wandering around said store with a dazed look on your face searching for cranberry sauce and nutmeg? Give it another five and you’ll be sobbing your way through the gift wrap section to the soothing sounds of an instrumental take on “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and wishing you could trade places with her.

But I’m not writing this to prematurely induce anxiety. Right now, we’re in the eye of the storm, and that’s a good time to stop, take a deep breath, and give yourself a pep talk.

This time of year is all about traditions, and like many small towns, Artesia has plenty.

Playoff football springs immediately to mind. After the Bulldogs’ solid win Saturday over Alamogordo, we’ll have at least one more chance this week to gather at Bulldog Bowl and cheer on a wonderful group of young men as they work to turn a season’s worth of dedication into the attainment of their ultimate goal.

Finding a premature Christmas decorator to feature in the newspaper so that everyone will know exactly where to direct their angst is a personal tradition of mine, but the delightfully overzealous can also serve as inspiration – if not to go ahead and scale the roof then at least to slowly begin your decorating prep in order to eliminate some of the labor when the day comes.

Light Up Artesia – set for Dec. 1 this year – is a fairly recent tradition, a variation of the old Moonlight Madness events of the past, but it’s a good one. An early start on Christmas shopping combined with shopping local is always a plus, and the sidewalk vendors add a festival feel to the evening. The parade of lights is lovely to see, and there’s no better reminder for the kids that it’s time to kick the whole being good thing up a notch than a visit from Santa.

The Ocotillo Performing Arts Center has a trio of holiday shows coming up, including Riders in the Sky Dec. 7, Christmastime in Ireland Dec. 13, and Branson on the Road Dec. 17, plus a Christmas Boutique that will open after Thanksgiving to offer Artesians another local outlet for gift-giving.

The Artesia Public Schools will, as always, be helping the community get in the spirit. The band program’s Christmas Concert is set for Dec. 5, Artesia High School Drama will be presenting “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Dec. 9-10, and the AHS and Zia choirs will perform their Christmas Concerts Dec. 13 and 15 respectively, in addition to elementary school musicals and other festivities.

A new Community Choir is forming and has a Christmas concert planned for Dec. 18, which will mark the return of an old tradition to the community, and many other events will no doubt be announced in the Daily Press in the coming weeks.

And if your only response to all that is, “Who has the time?”, the answer should be you. The seemingly unending list of to-dos and nonstop running from one task to the next can usher in another holiday tradition: stress. But if you make up your mind to take a moment whenever possible to enjoy a fun hometown event, you’ll find it easier to locate – and maintain – your holiday spirit.

And with any luck, that goodwill will even extend through Black Friday. But if not, take a tip from the Bulldog offensive line – stay low and keep your shoulders square.

Happy Thanksgiving, Artesia!

[email protected]