There are two ways of looking at the Holiday Season: the first is how the season approaches us and the second is how we approach it.
Most of the “it’s too early!” ire, I believe, is because of the mental calculus that happens almost as soon as Halloween is on the books: retail outlets deploy the decor, snow-filled commercials start to air, and some people can’t get their 15 foot inflatable Snoopy snow-globe out on the lawn fast enough. We know from experience that we’re only days away from the annual first volley in the dreaded never-ending “War on Christmas”, certain cable TV networks have already cracked into their extensive vault of “lonely woman meets hot rich guy just in time for the Holidays” movies, and absolutely no one is holding their breath to learn about what dumb-shit controversy this year’s Starbucks cup is going to stir up. Add to that the self-imposed pressure to get our finances in order, lists drawn up and disseminated, and crowds to endure in order to use those finances to fulfill those lists, and the early opening of the Holiday Season can seem like an unwelcome pressure that could really benefit from a much, much slower roll.
On the other hand, I firmly believe that the reason why some people like to “jump the gun” at Midnight on November 1st lies far beyond the commercialization of the Season. Even in the worst, most egregiously capitalistic TV commercials (who the fuck gifts a Mercedes for Christmas?), there’s a core that builds upon what people love about the season.
I am fortunate enough to live in a region where we get all four seasons (still, but for how long?). I grew up with temperate Springs, hot Summers, crisp Autumns, and snow-filled Winters, but the image of a pristine, snow-covered landscape is synonymous with the Holiday Season, regardless of where you’re seeing commercials or where you’re receiving greeting cards. Dashing through the snow implies a destination, and that’s usually beneath the lintel of the home of family or friends. Even when played for sentiment, to link a product to a pulling of the heartstrings, the fact that its a well-trodden path speaks to the fact that such iconography is very important to use as a species. We value the feelings of safety, warmth, acceptance, and love, and even when it’s obviously being exploited for someone else’s profit, we can’t help but value those desires.
Our world seems pretty shitty all around these days. Nine months out of the year we’re subject to news stories that don’t even make a pretense of telling us that we aren’t fucked in a way that we had previously thought was impossible. This is on top of whatever personal tragedies — large or small — we’re each dealing with on a daily basis. What we lack throughout the rest of the year is that feeling of hope in a better human condition that the Holiday Season is literally built upon. For most of the year, up until Halloween, we can’t begin to muster a feeling about the Holidays, but as soon as October rolls around we start to get the itch, and for some, as soon as November 1st hits, they grab that brass ring of happiness and refuse to let go, while others are bitching and moaning about how Christmas seems to “be getting earlier and earlier each year”. #OKEbeneezer.
Folks, the Holidays have gotten overly commercial. Blame secularism, I guess, even though I’m the last person to push us collectively towards religiosity. We teach kids that Christmas is when Santa drops more toys on them than they received throughout the year, and who doesn’t love looking forward to that? That this largess is completely a factor of Mom and Dad’s Jelly Of The Month club coupon showing up in the mail is something we regretfully learn later on, and we so desperately want to hold on to those ghosts of Christmas Past that we look forward to the one time of the year that had always made us happy. As adults, we seem to have so few opportunities for that kind of unbridled happiness that we’ll grasp at whatever we can, whenever we can. That might mean listening to Christmas music on November 1st, or putting up decorations well before Thanksgiving, or even just pausing in the Seasonal decor aisle at Target for longer than is really necessary just because of the ambiance. Who cares? Put aside the noise of commercialism and wrap yourself in the spirit of the Season as soon as you need it. That’s what it’s there for.
Before you leave, I feel that there are a few footnotes that I owe. These thoughts were always at the fore when writing this post, but I was on a mission to make a point and I couldn’t find a way to slip them into the flow without bringing the train to a screeching halt.
First is that I sometimes refer to the “Holiday Season” and sometimes just to “Christmas”. I did not ignore the other holidays in the “Season” like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or others that I’m actually not aware of. Christmas is what I celebrate and, in a wholly unscientific poll of “based on what I’ve seen”, it’s what the overwhelming majority of people celebrate in the U.S. Also, although it started as a religious observance and ended up being co-opted by capitalism, Christmas is both point and counterpoint to the dualism that I feel underlies people’s purported disgust with how much calendar space the holiday insists on taking. Hanukkah seems — to me — to still be more about the original observance than Christmas is, and I admit that I know little of Kwanzaa (although I don’t believe I’m alone in that).
I also understand that the Holiday Season is not universally loved by all. Many people have suffered tragedies that unfortunately coincided with this time of year, and just as the trappings of the Season are invoked to bring joy to people, they can also bring heartache. All I can offer here is acknowledgement.