It's unavoidable - the Halloween decorations in stores in August leading up to.....Christmas. What happened to Thanksgiving? No one cares about Thanksgiving. Poor Thanksgiving tries it's hardest with the turkey and fixings, the cozy family feeling, the month or so of gratitude posts on Facebook. But Thanksgiving fairly wobbles beneath the trappings of Christmas and can barely stand on it's own turkey legs under the weight of the holiday decorations, commercials, and sparkling lights. I mean, when did you last see a strand of Turkey lights? Pilgrim costumes in stores? A craft class at Micheal's on how to make an authentic Indian headdress?
Last week I went to the mall with my kids. Walking into Bath and Body Works, my daughter started hyperventilating. Literally. The store was dripping with holiday decorations; giant ornaments hanging from the ceiling, the overpowering scents of peppermint and spruce. Even my "non-shopping" daughter was so overwhelmed with the holiday spirit she uttered the words "I'm so glad we came to the mall!" I admit I bought a couple of candles (Winter Cabin and Winter Garland) and was besotted with a color-changing nightlight/air freshener ("It's only $15! We should get it!").
Then, tonight, as we drove out of the neighborhood on our way to the mall again (this time to purchase a very non-holiday-ish vacuum cleaner), I was shocked, no stunned, no appalled, to see that a neighbor has already put up their Christmas lights and decorations. It's November 11. Veteran's Day, no doubt. I realize there are not a lot of exciting decorations in the retail world for Thanksgiving. But I have seasonal candles in my house, my front porch is decorated with pumpkins and fall leaves and scarecrows and I have Pilgrim and turkey window clings. It's homey. And warm. And Thanksgiving-ish.
I understand that Christmas is exciting when you're a child. Even as an adult, I look forward to many things about the Christmas season. But to build Christmas up so huge is bound to lead to disappointment. My kids are so excited about Christmas they can barely contain themselves. They've made lists. One of them has a pre-lit Christmas tree in her room that's been up since Halloween. To each his (or her) own. But I wonder if the hype about Christmas is the right kind of hype.
I love to be festive, and you can bet the weekend of Thanksgiving our house will transform from turkeys and pilgrims to red, white and green and everything in between. We give the Griswolds a run for their money. Every Christmas I have big plans: make cookies with the kids (usually happens - sometimes on Christmas eve), make a beautiful handmade card (haha, never happens - Costco to the rescue!), take the kids to a Christmas show; the Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, Radio City Christmas Spectacular (happens about once every four years), put really creative stuff in the Advent House (never get creative, put candy in instead), make Christmas crafts (hasn't happened in years but I've already got a box started), make delicious homemade goodies for friends and neighbors (usually happens, but never what I originally planned), spend many cozy evenings watching traditional Christmas movies wearing Christmas pajamas, sipping hot cocoa with the kids (happens maybe once - if we're lucky). The point is, we build and build and build the excitement and in the end, it's just one day.
From a religious standpoint, that might sound like blasphemy - just one day? It's the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. But do we, really? I haven't been to church on Christmas in years. I kind of like church on Christmas. It's so festive. I know for some families, Christmas is a time to strengthen their belief and renew the spirit of the miracle of Christmas. And that's great. But when it comes right down to it, the birth of our Savior has nothing to do with the newest iPod touch or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. How did we get here?
I think the point is to savor the moment. Instead of rushing headlong into the holidays, why not savor the most mundane of months? Why not give November it's due? After all, November is when leaves swirl and turn in all of their garnet glory. The air is heavier with the smell of earth and leaf and change. The days are cooler - why not relish in the glory of wearing that first cozy sweater? The furnace is turned on, the fireplace stoked. Tea and coffee warm our tummies and hands. Dark comes earlier; a chance to cocoon inside a bit longer. Candlelight casts shadows making our old familiar house take on a new comfort. A turkey roasts, pies are baked, and we reflect on the things we're most grateful for. November is about simple pleasures. Don't rush it.