It’s that time of year again. Halloween is two days behind us, the air is crisp, the sun golden through a bright corona of fiery foliage, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
Here’s the thing: I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of the entire year. I love the movies, and the carols, and the colors, and the lights. I love picking out just the right gift to wrap in pretty foiled paper. I love high mass on Christmas Eve, and a lazy Christmas Day spent hanging around the house with my family.
What I loathe nearly as much as Election Season is the shiny, commercial Holly-Jolly Machine that stalks across the calendar earlier and earlier with every passing year like a gingerbread-scented Storm Trooper, crushing out an entire month beneath its steel-toed jingle-bell boots. Why does it happen? Why, because the world is so eager to embrace the cheer of the season, of course! Peace on Earth, and Goodwill Towards Men, and all that. Right?
HaHA. No. They do it to get you to buy crap. You know this, I know this. The world that surrounds us wants you in the holiday spirit so that they can pry as much money out of your pocket as inhumanly possible before close of business December 24th. The jingly-jingles, the festive decorations, it’s all just a framing device for one AMAZING door-buster sale after another, and suddenly the spirit of the season, all those rosy, lovely Christmas Carol-esque feelings that should fill our souls to the brim, they’re blown out like so many embers in the shrill shrieking extortions of an industry that would snap Tiny Tim’s crutch right in front of him (so they can sell him a BETTER one, of course, at an AMAZING price).
As our collective stress level skyrockets, one must wonder why we allow this gross commercialism to creep into our lives earlier and more aggressively every year? Especially at the expense of a really lovely little holiday called Thanksgiving?
While I do love Christmas, I also really like Thanksgiving. Aside from its unfortunate status as the High Holy Day of Hand Egg, it really is one of the nicest days of the year. Most cultures have some day marked out for an official Giving of Thanks; ours is rooted in the traditions of the English Protestant Reformation where, due to increasingly large sticks being stuck up bums between the reign of Edward VI and the crumbling of the Commonwealth, many people marked holidays with fasting and prayers of thanks instead of anything remotely festive (because if you enjoy yourself before you die, God will know, and he’ll never forgive you for it). However, even this wasn’t suitably grim enough for the Puritans, and so they packed up all their good-time vibes and shipped out for the shores of the New World. At some point after they established their colony at Plymouth they began a tradition of a yearly autumn Thanksgiving celebration. I was just one of many lasting contributions they would give this country, like a killer work ethic, a discomfort for public dancing, and a pathological obsession with all things kinky that is camouflaged by a heavy layer of moral righteousness. Gradually the religious implications dropped away from the holiday, and in 1941 President Roosevelt permanently fixed the date of observance on the third Thursday of the November. Add a parade and a narcolepsy-inducing fowl and you’ve got yourself a modern holiday.
The fairytale myth about those first Puritans sharing a meal with the local American Indians has largely been debunked in modern times. Thanksgiving is now primarily regarded as a day of personal thanks. We come together with our family, or our friends, the people who matter in our lives, we eat a big meal together, and we think about all the ways that our lives are actually pretty decent. We enjoy each other. We take a breath before heading into the Christmas season (which is always going to be a LITTLE stressful, no matter what we do). And we do it together, as one people regardless of color, race, or creed. That’s a really beautiful thing.
I grew up in a bi-religious household, with a Jewish parent, so as much as I love the Yule, I’m very aware of all the ways it can be alienating for non-Christians. I enjoy holidays that don’t have a religious affiliation. America is so divided on so many things that I can’t help but really appreciate what little we can really embrace together. For one day we all take off work, we go to the people we love, and we eat ourselves stupid. Who couldn’t appreciate that?
Trouble is, it’s very hard to commercialize a day that is primarily centered around being home with your family. Oh sure, between the parade and the 26 billion sportsball games on TV it’s an advertiser’s dream come true, but beyond what is spent at the grocery store it’s not a holiday that lends itself to the acquisition of material goods.
Well damn. We certainly can’t have that. Americans, sitting at home, eating a meal, watching TV, and NOT shopping? What is this? Stalingrad? No, no, no, we have to fix this. I know! We start the Christmas movies the day after Halloween. And the carols, we get some radio stations on the 24-7 festivity wagon. That’ll get them in the mood. Then…sometime in November, say that third Thursday, BOOM we hit them with deals like they’ve never seen! That’ll save them from having to stay home! ‘Murica!
We’d start earlier if we could, but did you see the numbers Halloween put up? We can’t cut in on that.
So it goes. Suddenly the one day that we are supposed to feast and relax in celebration of all the good things we have access to in this country is subsumed into the hellish commercial cyclone that has become the ever expanding Christmas Season. Are you dependent on retail to make a living? Well you’re not entitled to much as it is, but one of those things is certainly not a holiday off anymore. Your smiling ass will be behind that counter at 6am Thanksgiving Day, ready to help the oncoming horde of bargain-hunters. We’ll have Turkey sandwiches in the breakroom from 4pm to 4:10, then back to it! Sell, sell sell!
Okay so I may be exaggerating slightly. It’s not quite that bad. Yet. But we’re headed that way rapidly. Already a disturbing number of stores open their doors at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day, ensuring that their employees will almost certainly not get the time off that I can assure you they richly deserve. Every year the Christmas bombardment starts earlier, and we lose sight, not only of the Christmas season is SUPPOSED to be about, but also the significance of our capstone harvest holiday, Thanksgiving.
So fight back. Use November as a time of peace between the busy hum of October and the inevitable frenzy of December. Inhale the crisp, wood smoked air, enjoy the leaves, sip your latte, focus on all those great things in your life that don’t require you to spend a cent. And then go plunging into the Christmas Season rejuvenated and ready to make the most of a special time of year. A time of year that is only special if its sphere is limited to the last month of the calendar. And when Thanksgiving Day arrives, you find yourself some loveable weirdos who annoy you just the right amount, and you spend the day with them. Eat, laugh, yell at the game; don’t spare one thought to Christmas. It will come in it’s own time. Let’s see if we can’t take back one of the only days of the year that we can all celebrate together. Fight the Christmas creep. Fight the holiday machine. Save the Turkey!