Thanksgiving is two weeks away, so I suppose I should give in to the inevitable. Christmas season is here.
It’s really been here since the end of September, but so far, I’ve been able to ignore it. Or at least bury its arrival deep enough in my brain that I didn’t have to deal with it.
Two nights ago, however, as I drove home from work, Christmas crashed through my defenses in a most unpleasant way: a local radio station has started playing Christmas music 24 hours a day.
Now, to be fair, this station shifts to an all-Christmas music format every year. It’s one of the six stations on the first row of my FM pre-sets, and “White Christmas” invaded my car for about 10 seconds. That’s how long it took me to figure out it was being performed by The Drifters and change the channel. (The Drifters? Singing White Christmas? Please. Shoot me now.)
The sappy, go-for-the-heart television commercials have begun. Most of them are invitations to change the channel or hit the fast-forward button on the DVR. I don’t like being so blatantly manipulated, so I use my remote and my thumb with great delight as I fight back.
Some of these spots are quite good, though. Like the Wal-Mart spot, that features two little girls. The older sister is teaching the younger sister all about Christmas, obviously sharing lessons she learned from her mother. Then Mom unexpectedly comes home, dressed in battle fatigues. It’s effective as hell. A multi-tissue commercial…that I fast-forward through now so I don’t embarrass myself. You’ll see it, I’m sure, and remember me.
The crappy, happy Christmas commercials have also arrived.
There’s a TJ Maxx spot that’s on every television show I watch lately, or so it seems. Four singing women bundled up in fur-lined coats, singing and prancing about a mall, extolling the virtues of cheap gifts at TJ Maxx. For a while, I wondered why the advertisers were buying time on crime shows, sporting events, and news channels, programs that skew toward a male audience. Then it dawned on me. Cheap gifts and a generous return policy. Just what a man needs to complete his Christmas shopping.
Christmas cards and displays were in stores before school started this year. I walked into Home Depot in September and the entire seasonal area had been turned into a warehouse of Christmas goods. The flashing lights blinded me, and the hum of blow-up yard displays was almost soothing. Of course, finding anything Halloween meant walking through a forest of artificial trees, past the bug sprays and marked-down lawn furniture, to find a tiny square of concrete with a handful of orange items scattered about.
I read an article right after Halloween that cited a survey showing 37 percent — thirty-seven percent! — of Americans had started their Christmas shopping before Halloween, and that half of those expected to be done — done, mind you — before Thanksgiving. Good Lord people, save something for those of us who wait until last minute looking for a bargain. (Okay, I admit it. I just wait until the last minute because that’s what I do…but save something anyway.)
I probably sound like the Grinch, before his heart grows bigger. But, I’m not evil or even cranky. I actually like Christmas. I really do.
My grandmother’s birthday was Christmas Eve. She celebrated 100 of them, and she always complained her birthday cheated her out of several Christmas presents. Many great family traditions made better by the coincidence of her birth.
The food and candy is sensational. Certain beverages are better than sensational. Some of the music is okay. I like the traditional television specials, too. I always tear up when Linus speaks. The whole Solstice and birth-of-the-savior, dark-into-light thing, appeals to my soul in a most personal and thought-provoking way. There’s a lot that’s good about the season.
What bothers me about the Hallmark-and-Macy’s-sponsored early arrival of the Christmas season is that it overshadows so much of what comes before it. I love the fall, especially the long, moderate falls we get in Virginia Beach, and Halloween and Thanksgiving each have their own place in the yearly cycle. All that fades behind the bright lights and the power of the Christmas selling season.
Life comes at us so quickly, and it seems to move faster with each passing year. I’m just trying to enjoy each day, and each season, as fully as possible. For me, the looming presence of Christmas in September takes something away from the fall and all that makes it special. The real joy of Christmas is diminished by how long the season seems to last and the hype and rushing about.
So, like the Grinch, I surrender to the inevitable. I’ll try to avoid the worst of the noise and confusion until the day is upon me, and then I’ll join in and celebrate. In my own way. Like I do every year. With a silent prayer of thanks and hope.