I drove the middle child to her Dad’s last night and as I rounded the corner headed toward the center of town, I noticed a massive white glow filling the sky. I immediately thought terrorists must have found their way our quaint little village and bombed the bejesus out of the Civil War Monument, as a message to all the capitalist infidels of southern Maine. Turns out the blinding glow was from the gazillion Christmas lights that miraculously appeared in the nano-second between Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Sadly, they weren’t the first.
I’ve noticed Christmas decorating begins earlier and earlier each year. Halloween decorations come down, and Christmas decorations go up, with Thanksgiving stuck somewhere in the middle. I was raised in the era of decorating for Christmas a week or two before the big day. The anticipation of Christmas is so dragged out now, it seems to lose something.
I used to look forward to the first house that lit up in December, but to be honest, when I saw sky ablaze last night, I felt a little wistful. The prelude to the season has advanced from a few simple symbols of the birth of Christ to a pissing contest to determine the earliest, gaudiest, and silliest testaments to commercialism. I’m still shaking my head over the Sponge Bob Square Pants display, and don’t get me going on the Smurfs lit up with blue strobe lights.
Thanksgiving traditionally kicks off the holiday season, but isn’t it a bit hypocritical to follow this traditional family holiday of giving thanks with the mob mentality of Black Friday? I know it would take more than a $50 savings to get me out bed at three in the morning, drive to a mall, find a parking spot amid a demolition derby, and do battle with scavengers willing to sacrifice their first born for a video game. Black Friday, to my way of thinking, gives the Christmas season a black eye. It’s difficult to explain the “spirit of the season” to kids when adults are duking it out over an action figure or trampling each other to take advantage of a sale price. Maybe it’s an age thing but I worry about Christmas being able to retain at least a smidgeon of dignity and a splash of its religious origin, for all who choose to recognize it.
Now I’ve gone and done it. I’ve mentioned the religious aspect of Christmas. Well, we can argue about the origins of Christmas, the pagan influence, and the religious conflicts that arise each year all night long, but some will still celebrate when a Christmas nativity is disallowed in a public arena, and others will continue to defy the politically correct insistence of “Happy Holidays”, as I soooo love to do. But whether we are Christian celebrants or atheist observers, Christmas is also the reincarnation of a non-secular spirit we all gradually forget throughout the year. We need the season desperately. It allows us an opportunity to practice what we preach, en masse.
For the Christmas season to retain its uniqueness, its persuasive power of goodness, and yes, for some even its holiness, it shouldn’t be spread so thin that it loses its meaning. It’s nice to say we strive to practice the message of Christmas all year long, but the truth is, most of us don’t. Come a week or so before Christmas, though, whether the reason is religious or just contagious, most of us experience a feeling of renewed hope and good will. Commercializing and extending the season by months only serves to dampen that experience. It’s like eating chocolate twenty-four seven. Pretty soon it’s not such a treat.
I’ll take the middle road on the decorating, start on December 1st, and finish somewhere around the 10th. No Smurfs for me, though. A tree with an angel, a crèche, and a few dozen twinkle lights outside will encourage me to be nice no matter how irritated I am over something silly. I’ll hold doors open for old people, smile, and wish them a Merry Christmas. I’ll not pass a Salvation Army bucket without donating. Saint Jude’s will get a card. I will say “Merry Christmas” pronouncing Christmas with a long “i” in response to all who wish me Happy Holidays.
Oh, and what about those “offended” by the religious aura of Christmas? No matter how you cut it, Christ is in Christmas, and if this upsets you, don’t celebrate it. There are many religious holidays I don’t celebrate, but I also don’t demand they be neutralized. Even things up with your own “Christless” Day if you want, but buzz off Christmas.