OK, the title’s a bit strong. Maybe. But it’s November 14. And some stores were putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween. Ack!
I grew up in New York City. I went to college in Albany, NY. I live in the D.C. metro area. That’s only significant because, for a long time, it’s been Amtrak’s only profitable train line – the Bos-Wash corridor. It’s almost a continuous metropolitan area from Boston all the way down to the D.C. area. There are some rural spots along the way, but it is pretty busy. That’s the way it is – it’s a real thing. I mean, people really live and work in the whole area. But it’s real.
Here’s the thing about holidays. They don’t all bleed together. They’re usually discreet. OK, New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day does come in the middle of Christmas. But for the most part, holidays are discreet. Christmas doesn’t start in October, and we don’t need to make it start in October because of a growing population.
Now, I’m not going to go off here on keeping the holidays pure for their religious meanings. I mean, we can’t have it both ways, for one thing. If we want everyone to celebrate Christmas than we have to accept that lots of people aren’t Christian so for lots of people it’s going to be a largely secular holiday. What you do in your own celebration is up to you.
Yes, I prefer to keep the religious significance of religious holidays fairly central. And I think that’s important for religious institutions, as well. But I’m not talking about religious institutions here. I’m talking about retailers and advertisers. And t.v. networks just a bit. I really don’t want to see Christmas decorations up before Halloween when I go out shopping. I don’t want to see them up before Thanksgiving, actually.
I would like to take the time to appreciate each and every holiday as it was intended. Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. I want that time to see how the children have decided to worth through their fantasies and fears with the costumes that they’ve come up with. I want the time to watch my favorite scary movies. Most of us enjoy a good scare now and then – especially when we know we’re really safe.
I want to enjoy watching the leaves fall (before I remember that I’ll also have to rake them up) and then savor Thanksgiving. Oh, and that savoring Thanksgiving? Yeah, that’s JUST savoring Thanksgiving. With my family. No shopping. NO shopping. Thanksgiving ins’t just a day off to have a quick bite before rushing headlong into competitive Christmas shopping. REALLY NO.
I want to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade (OK, when I was a little kid, we used to go to my great-aunt Lottie’s apartment on Central Park West and watch the parade from her second-floor window, and I miss that), I want to have a great cooperative meal with my family, and watch my grandchildren climb all over each other on the floor.
I’m completely fine with the Christmas decorations appearing on the day after Thanksgiving. And for places that want to decorate for Chanukah, I’m fine with that (since no one ever seems to do that early). But friends, holidays will cease to be special if we insist on dragging them on forever.
Chanukah is eight nights and days long. Everyone seems to be happy with that. Sure, on the eighth day we’re left wanting a little bit more. As it should be. That’s great.
There are 12 days of Christmas, and guess what? They don’t start until December 25th! Now, I’ve already said that I’m ok with Christmas having been largely secularized in our culture. So I’m not going to get all worked up about Christmas music playing all through December instead of Advent music. I like Christmas music, and Advent and Christmas are at least related. Again, I’d prefer that our churches played more Advent than Christmas music during Advent, but hey, play all the wassails and carols you want in December. in DECEMBER. I really don’t want to hear David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing “The Little Drummer Boy” in early November, because I’ll be sick of it by, say, January 3 (when it’s still Christmas), and I really like that particular arrangement of that song.
Then there’s the whole thing about making all about the shopping competition anyway. I’m old enough to remember when black Friday was just a concept. It was the idea that it was the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, and that the retailers turned the corder then. Then it started to be a thing one day. It was a thing. Stores started to make a big deal about Black Friday sales. Then they started to one-up each other with their sales. And — oh – “door busters” whatever the hell they are. And lots of bait-and-switch.
And then, and then, oh! And then it got to be 4 am! Midnight! Eight p.m. on Thanksgiving Day! (Why wait?) So that now some stores won’t even be giving their employees any time off for Thanksgiving at all; they’ll just be having big sales. Well, that’s the spirit.
Because you know, Thanksgiving, it’s all about being thankful for all the material stuff we have. Stuff is just SO important.
And then this frenzy just goes on right through Christmas into the after-Christmas sales. UGH!
And I’m not saying don’t give presents for the holidays. I’m just saying don’t buy into the hype. Remember the holidays. It isn’t the toys that make Christmas.
Several years ago we had a flood in our basement and as a result we had to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I’d found a whole box full of toys that were Christmas presents that my kids never even played with. One year my mother got so sucked into the whole buy more gifts thing, that she’d given the kids so many toys they couldn’t even play with all of them. They played with the toys briefly while they visited at Grandma’s, and when we got back home, they were just overwhelmed with stuff.
It’s not about making sure we rush straight from one holiday into the next. It’s not about buying the most expensive gifts. It’s not about outdoing the neighbors’ party/decorations/cookies/card. It’s about taking the time to appreciate each discreet holiday. Even each discreet part of each holiday.
Up next? Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.