: the red kettles :

They. Are. Everywhere. Those big red kettles with the bell ringers and the loud, clamorous clang of the holiday season. They’re ubiquitous, like trees or cellphones.

You run into them at every store entrance and every store exit; on every sidewalk and every street corner. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without those cast iron sentinels, would it? No.

You can probably conjure their image in your sleep. After all, you’ve seen them a million times. Fire engine red and pot-bellied, hanging heavy and pendulous, a chipped slot in the shiny lid. A little of the mystery and magic you felt as a kid may cling to them still.

And don’t forget the handbells. They ring in your ears for hours after. Weeks, even. Ding, Ding! Those bells are modern-day town criers. When you hear them, you know the holidays are coming. They’re saying ‘get ready, folks, Santa is on his way.’ It can’t help but send a trill of excitement along your spine.

So what’s the problem? Guilt, my friends.

You see, if you put a dollar in every kettle you pass, you’ll go broke in a flash. And if you don’t? Well, you’ll spend the entire season mired in guilt and remorse. It’s a quandary, I tell you, and you can’t avoid it.

I mean, you go to the grocery store and tuck a dollar bill into the coin slot on your way in, right? The bell-ringer, grateful for your generosity, smiles and wishes you happy holidays. Your heart is warmed.


You exit the store and, uh-oh, a new bell-ringer, one who is unaware of the generosity of your earlier donation. Ergo s/he is not grateful and gives you the fish eye. You slink to your car, retracting your head into your coat all the way.

This same scene is repeated at the drug store, the dry cleaner, the mall, the bookstore, toy stores, restaurants, everywhere you go between now and Christmas Day. When you make a donation, you should at least get a button for your coat — or a sticker, a badge, a secret password — something that identifies you as a kind, giving person.

It should allow for frequency, too. You know, show the twenty or hundreds of times you’ve already donated to the fat, red, shiny kettles throughout the long holiday season. There’s no need to make a big deal out of it or anything, just so I’ll stop feeling like such a weasel.

Okay, there, I feel better now. Happy holidays.

© publikworks. 2011

5 responses to “: the red kettles :”

  1. My best solution has always been to give on the way out. They are less likely to give the stink eye when you’re going in. Plus, then I can feel a good all the way home! (yes, I know that is selfish but anyone who gets mad can suck it)


    1. I love your attitude, ninja! I’m going to give it a shot. Thanks for stopping.


  2. I sooo agree!! The guilt of not donating, or not donating again to a new bell ringer… A cloud of guilt throwing lightning bolts on my head all the way to the car. Holidays? Guilty days? Hmmmm…


    1. I seriously believe that’s the worst part of the holidays. Not the crowds, not the bills, not the weight gain from all the holiday treats. No, it’s the guilt from the bell ringers. It’s good to know I’m not the only one — thanks, John. We’ll get through the season together.


      1. Agreed. Ring-a-ling….


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