Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Early Bird is a Partridge

I knew it was bound to happen, but I admit, I forgot. Unfortunately, it happens every year, and every year I forget just the same.

I promised myself I would not go to the mall until at least November, so as not to see anything that would remotely remind me of Christmas…but apparently, I’m only good at keeping my promises to other people, and I’m very disloyal to myself.

Our girls needed winter clothes, and my husband said that we should go to the mall and get them some. Yes, my husband. I don’t know about anyone else, but the shock of hearing those words come out of his mouth made all rational thought leave my brain. I was too busy getting him out the door and into the car before he changed his mind to remind myself that the mall was off limits until the week before Thanksgiving.

No, I’m not the Grinch. I’m not uttering “Bah, Humbug” under my breath at the sight of a department store gone Christmas wild. The fact is, I absolutely LOVE Christmas…it happens to be the most wonderful time of the year (to me and Andy Williams). But the problem I find is that every year the decorations come earlier and earlier, doing nothing but numbing us all to the joys of the season and the thrill of finding the perfect, meaningful gift while listening to your favorite holiday songs piped over the store speakers. Instead, we all go about the season fretfully trying to find outrageously priced items in exclusive stores for people who put more emphasis on the gift-giving aspect of the holidays than actually enjoying them for what they stand for. We buy right into the marketing world’s ploy to get us to spend more money sooner by “getting us into the Christmas spirit” with decorations and lights, only to have the stores pull them right out from under our feet on December 26th , when we can finally relax and enjoy them.

When I was little, the stores didn’t decorate for the holidays until the day after Thanksgiving. Somewhere along the line, it became the day after Halloween. Now, it’s October 15th, more than 2 months away from Christmas, and there are trees and lights throughout the mall. Pretty soon, we’ll be seeing Christmas trees on top of the sunscreen display after the Fourth of July (actually, this may have already happened in a few places).

The other aspect of the pre-holiday season that gets to me is the once-novel “24 Hours of Christmas” music played by select radio stations. I thought it was great when one of the stations in our area decided to expand their Christmas music play list to the week before the actual holiday. Another radio station joined in the next year, and for the week before Christmas you were actually able to flip to another holiday station if you couldn’t stand to hear one more “Pah-Rum-Pum-Pum-Pum” on the one you were currently listening to. Flash forward to last year: Now there are at least four stations playing Christmas music 24/7, and one of them actually had the nerve to start the Monday before Thanksgiving! The ironic thing is that all of these stations will stop playing Christmas music completely at 12 midnight December 25th, which for some of us is right in the middle of our celebration. Talk about post-holiday depression…our gathering hasn’t even ended yet, and the media has already moved on to the Super bowl.

In my family, Christmas week was always considered the week after the holiday, and it wasn’t unusual to still be listening to Nat King Cole right up to New Year’s Eve. Friends and relatives were still stopping by to visit throughout the week, and it was still as festive a time as the previous seven days. Now, Christmas is run by the supreme evildoer of all time—money. Christmas becomes as disposable as a toddler’s dirty diaper on December 26th. It has no use anymore, and no one wants to look at it because it makes them sick.

I long for the days when the holidays still had meaning; meaning other than end-of-year corporate financial statements. When taking a stroll or a drive on a peaceful night to view decorated houses brought more joy than an iPod Nano. When a cup of homemade eggnog could warm your heart better than any outfit from Abercrombie and Fitch. When gathering with friends by the fireplace to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” was more desirable than running serpentine through the mall, rushing from crowded store to crowded store while people sneezed on you, cut you in line and stepped on your toes without even so much as a “Pardon me.”

My son actually asked me today, in all seriousness, when we were going to put up the tree. When I reminded him that we do it the day after Thanksgiving, he replied that it’s almost Halloween, and Thanksgiving is “only, like, three weeks later”. My point is valid…he has fallen prey to the early signs of the season, and his internal clock is off-kilter. He should be having visions of candy-corns and caramel apples, but instead he’s seeing sugarplums.

Dear God, give me the resources to help my children learn to savor the Christmas spirit in the season that it belongs in. I don't want to spend the next two months falling prey to the media and the mall. I want to relax and enjoy the gatherings at my friends' houses during the month of December. I want to bake sugar cookies from scratch while Frank Sinatra croons about those J-I-N-G-L-E Bells the night before Christmas Eve. I want to sit in the living room where the only light comes from my tree and the fireplace, while getting chills up my spine as Celine Dion sings "Oh, Holy Night". You just can't enjoy these things in October.

At this rate, it might be over before it even begins. As long as I never hear one of my kids say, "Mom, when are you taking down the tree already?", I guess I'll be fine.

10 comments:

Summer said...

Lisa, Another good post with a very important subject!
i believe that there is a time for everything..and it seems that Christmas is going to be moving to July soon if stores keep on moving the date to decorate too early!!
it is a shame when such a meaningful spiritual holiday becomes so commercialized in the name of profit..it makes things hard on people who are looking for the spiritual aspect of it. People tend to worry about only the material aspect of it instead of concentrating on the spiritual part of it. Material things ruin every spiritual aspect humans are looking for in any special holiday.
I thought of a solution to put people out of misery during this holiday but it is only hypothetical...There has to be a law declaring the holiday season from the day after Thanksgiving to a week after new years day!! this law should state that stores are not allowed to start decorating before these certain dates....Also there has to be a law to have a set amount of money for people to spend on gifts according to their income to make sure people do not fall into debt and misery!! Oh, but these laws can be enforced in a oppressed strict society!
I feel sorry for the people who fall under the pressure of the holiday demands and grow to dread it than enjoying it!

Lisa said...

Summer,

Great idea!! Wouldn't that be nice? "Oh, sorry, my spending limit per person is $25, so I can't buy you that $150 dress shirt in Bloomingdale's!" We actually have adults in the family who give each member a list every year! It has gotten out of control.

I'll tell you, I could care less if I got one gift as long as I could enjoy the holiday as I used to when I was young. There are several alternative activities that I could engage in such as a Christmas play at my stepson's church (they say it's like a Broadway show), and a beach-side, life-size display of the nativity that's supposed to be very beautiful and peaceful to walk through.

Maybe I should get the lists early and get to the mall pre-season...this way, all of the shopping will be out of the way and I can actually enjoy myself!

Take good care,
Lisa

Big Dave T said...

Here, here! Yes, and very well said. In fact, I wrote a poem some time ago that mirrors your thoughts. I'll have to dig it up and e-mail it to you.

Kacey said...

Woo Hoo! A kindred spirit! You are spot on with this post. I wrote one about Christmas last year. Check our my archives for November 20th 2005 for Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays. The merchants have taken the reason for Christmas right out of the season and placed it at the altar of the almighty buck!

Lisa said...

Dave,

I would LOVE to read your poem!! Dig it up before the holidays, would ya?

Take good care,
Lisa

Lisa said...

Kacey,

Amen, sister!!

I will certainly pay you a visit and read your Christmas post!

Isn't it sad what money has done to the world...or the pursuit of money? I guess if there were more importance placed on family, spirituality and peace, the "almighty" dollar wouldn't be so important, and we'd pursue it less.

I'll try not to mention Christmas for at least the rest of the month! Although I did hear the infamous radio station I spoke of advertise it's upcoming 24/7 Christmas music extravaganza today. I missed the start date, but I can't even imagine how early it'll be this year if they're advertising it already!

Take good care,
Lisa

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