It's November 10 here. November 10, for Pete's sake. You'd never know it, though, for all of the Christmas hubbub that is in its complete, balls-to-the-wall, 'fa la lala la, la la la la' glory.
I remember a time...not too terribly long ago, actually...where there existed this well-loved holiday between Halloween and Christmas called Thanksgiving. It generally fell on the fourth Thursday of the month of November, generally celebrated at an elderly relative's house and featured ham, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie...or some combination thereof. It was like the 'holiday warm-up' for what was to come on Christmas. In fact, some people actually preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas, as it was less push for the 'perfect present' and more for the 'perfect roasted' something er nother. So you made it through the fun of Halloween, then hunkered down in the kitchen (if you were female) or around the TV watching football (if you were male) for Thanksgiving. With some luck, Thanksgiving would go well enough (i.e., no family members had made threats to one another nor stormed off in an argument) that all the group would hit the malls the day after Thanksgiving to start on the Christmas shopping. Some Norman Rockwell types would even go and purchase and decorate their Christmas trees during those long Thanksgiving weekends. The 'after Thanksgiving' plan was genius, actually, even if the family wasn't getting along...it got everyone out of the house and away from all potential weapons. Christmas came in stages, with more and more emphasis on 'getting the right gift' as December 25th drew near...but at least it came in stages. And it always came after Thanksgiving.
But Thanksgiving, God help it, apparently has been eclipsed as a commerically-celebrated American holiday (it has long since been eclipsed as a traditional one, theoretically started by the earliest Americans when they ate in peace with the Native Americans they were so trying to co-exist with) and didn't get the memo. Christmas has invaded and I'm just wondering when exactly Christmas starts now. I know that Thanksgiving's been slipping, and I hate it for the old day, I do. But now those post-Thanksgiving but pre-Christmas rituals have moved into a zone of which I am profoundly uncomfortable. For example: the day after Halloween (November 1 for those overseas bound) not one, but TWO, radio stations here started playing 'Happy Holidays' music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from that day forward through New Year's Day. (Yet another reason Clear Channel should be shut down.) Let me repeat that for those of you, like myself, who initially missed the stupidity of the message...for approximately 60 days here, every day and every night some damn version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", "All I Want For Christmas", "Silver Bells" and who knows what else will play endlessly, whether we're ready for the free for all that Christmas has become or not. The local Wal-Mart (another reason to avoid Wal-Mart in my opinion, too) had their fake fur-covered snowmen on sale in mid-October, their spray- flocked miniature Christmas trees out before then (because nothing says Christmas like fake white fur from Korea and spray-flocked green metal) .
It's bad enough we had made Thanksgiving and Christmas a credit card spree in our vain attempts to 'one up' our friends, our neighbours, even our own family members. It's bad enough Thanksgiving had stooped to the point that the very nature of the holiday...bringing people together for a peaceful meal...had been usurped in the 'me too' quest for the more organic gobbler, the more seasoned julienned vegetables, the more excess with food the better. It's worse perhaps (depending on your religion, of course) that we've tapped into every possible angle of Christmas to seize upon the birth of Jesus Christ and make some pocket change in the process. Christmas is no longer about the celebration of a humble child in a manger, but about who can get whatever toy is the coolest, and the soonest, in whatever and by all means necessary. If Jesus was at the mall these days, he'd get trampled over Himself by all the soccer moms hellbent to get the Jesus doll that gyrates, teaches spelling, and has perfectly positioned plastic eyes from China. So someone, somewhere, has decided that we Americans can't get enough of this lunacy, so let's bring Christmas out sooner!!! Never mind the fact that millions of Americans overspend on their holiday shopping, and never mind that overspending occurs at a time when even fewer now can afford to do so. Never mind that we don't even know our neighbours anymore...it's important instead to have the flashiest, more expensive, most prosperous (looking anyway) house on the block. Just because Jesus self-sacrificed doesn't mean the rest of us have to...besides, He would want us to have that fancy necklace for Sunday service, right? Right??
So, here I am, on November 10th, having just returned from getting mundane supplies at the regionally-owned discount store. And although it's a small store, there was not one damn inch of the place left that did not scream 'Christmas purchase wanna-be'. There was half an aisle for pumpkin pie filling which made me temporarily happy not everyone had forgotten Thanksgiving...until I turned the corner and read the red and green sign: "make some for Santa!" I'm disgusted, and not only because seemingly our worthiness is only equal to the gifts we give/receive with others, but because we are so damn willing to toss away tradition (and American-specific holidays) in favour of getting the earliest purchase of a widescreen TV on the block. It's all too apparent Thanksgiving as I knew it as a child is gone, long gone. But unfortunately so is whatever made the anticipation and celebration of Christmas so special, too.
Call me Scrooge if you want, folks, I don't care and my position remains the same: this 'buy buy buy' DNA strand in the modern holiday season is wrong. Maybe it's me, but if we're always prepping for it, paying for it, or buying early for it...religious holiday or no...after awhile, this 'holiday' is anything but that, and instead is just another monthly financial 'obligation'. And that's not a 'holiday' I want to spend with any present nor with any person at all.
That said, I'm thinking we should embrace this absurdity and make money off the moneymakers who perpetuated this crap in the first place. Let's expand the holiday season to something year round, or maybe something seasonal...no longer would the US and Europe and others above the Equator share the holiday with our friends from the Southern Hemisphere, but instead celebrate only when "White Christmas" is even a remote possibility for each. Theoretically, this could mean we could have two potential windfalls, one about every six months, if we're willing to travel. Double the holiday, double the holiday sales! And just imagine if we widened it out like we do with the asinine number of world time periods...every time zone could host the festivities exclusively for a certain number of days then (imagine a slow version of what happens as each zone falls into a new year now). Then there's the name...since Christ is not the big seller from what I've seen of this year's forthcoming Christmas, maybe a name change (voted on in all of the major malls, of course) is long overdue. Maybe we should call it Santamas, or to really hit the spirit of it all, maybe take on a corporate endorser like so many professional sports teams or NASCAR® have now, like "ABC&D's Merry Holiday Season" (we've gotta be politically correct, too, lest we offend any potential shoppers). You'd think countless credit card programs would practically fall over themselves to sponsor "MaxCredit's Santamas in July". Then we could have 'official' fake Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer lawn ornaments and all...the financial goldmine that's possible boggles the mind.
Until then, I guess I'll have to limit my purchases to agnostic looking grocery stores, online, thrift stores, or bare-bones warehouse surplus centers. I waited 5 minutes to check out tonight with my purchases and was forced to listen to The Chipmunks sing Christmas 'ballads' over the Muzak system...and I seriously was contemplating doing physical harm to the sound system should I have found its location. (After hearing "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" again, I am certain this must be a song we're using in all of our illegal terrorist holding centers as a form of torture...probably far more effective than waterboarding.) I see it's going to be a very long time until the New Year...already.
And for those of you who 'live' for Christmas, like my dear Mama...Santa's making an early appearance this year at 5 local malls and/or shopping venues before (ahem) Thanksgiving. Get going, folks, there's bound to be a sleigh-themed pot holder on sale.