Friday, November 14, 2008

November is the New August

After Instrumental Methods Lab (lovingly referred to as "Meth Lab") today, I went to The Main Twist for some ice cream. Why? I just felt like eating some ice cream.

After the first Tuesday of November, there's really no point in even acknowledging that it's still November for another three or four weeks. It's already Christmastime, and there's not a thing we can do about it. Have you decorated your tree yet? Is all your shopping done? Get plans to visit the relatives? Dig up the old wassail and eggnog recipes?

Christmas, or rather, The Christmas Season(tm) seems to have grown in length as I have gotten older. When I was a kid, say, in elementary school, Christmas wasn't huge on anybody's mind until probably the week before, when classes were about to get out. It was in that week that you probably started thinking about buying gifts for your family, or the obligatory classroom Secret Santa/White Elephant/Buy For The Same Gender gift exchange. The last day or two of classes was devoted to making Christmas ornaments and walking through the halls singing carols.

When I hit a good middle-school-ish age, I first became aware of "The 24/25 Days of Christmas," which was rather shocking, since I had always sung about 12 days of Christmas before. I blame the media for this one, or rather, media producers. All of a sudden, someone realized that we had made a ton of new Christmas movies and TV episodes, while still needing to cycle through a whole 'nother onslaught of Christmas programs from past years. Since 12 days was no longer enough time to air all of this tinseled footage, they decided to double the length of The Christmas Season(tm) to accomodate.

In high school, I became aware of the phenomenon known as "Black Friday," which sounds like a day of economic crisis, but is actually an economic boost (usually). My awareness was probably brought about during my days as a paperboy, when for whatever mysterious reason, the newspapers became three times as thick as normal for a short Wednesday-Saturday period in late November. I never really found Black Friday sales all that fantastic, especially when you can get even better sales on December 26. Nonetheless, Black Friday effectively lengthened The Christmas Season(tm) by approximately one more week. We're now up to the About 30 Days of Christmas.

Then came college. As a college student, you're forced to manage your income and make important financial decision. This includes buying Halloween candy on November 1, when it's half-priced. I've gotten into the habit of going to the local WallyWorld and checking out what's on stock, not on the 1st, but on the 2nd (I never know why I make it there the day before). I found two things shocking. One, all of the Halloween inventory was gone. All the costumes, all the candy, all the decorations, poof. Gone. (This baffles me, since Christmas and Easter items usually stay on the shelves for a month after the holiday is over, with ever-increasing "Would You Please Get These Off Our Hands" discounts.) Two, Christmas music.

I walked down an aisle where two women with children were having a conversation about this. One woman: "I mean, it's only the second day of November, and they're already playing Christmas music?"

Said the other, "I guess they really want you to start your Christmas shopping now."

I felt the need to jump into the conversation, despite the fact that I knew neither lady. "It almost kinda makes you wonder, does anyone even celebrate Thanksgiving anymore?"

"Well, there's no Thanksgiving music to play," one woman joked.

In the aisle where the candy wrapped in orange once roamed, red and green were the new dominant colors. A giant tree was at the front of the store. Hideous seasonal dining room accessories (such as the obligatory snowman cookie jars and Santa Claus mugs) graced almost every aisle of kitchen essentials. It'll only be a matter of time before the employees are required to wear red and white hats. Christmastime is here, happiness and cheer, or else.

Christmas was, and still is, a good holiday. Almost everyone's in that "giving spirit," just as God was a while back when He gave us His Gift (granted, His Gift was a bit more significant than what we do, despite God's lack of foil wrapping paper). Christmas is one of the rare chances I get to see most of my family. Playing carols with my father on random brass instruments in the local grocery store next to the Salvation Army donation bucket is still a highlight of my Christmas break. As a college student, Christmas is the first chance one gets to genuinely relax since the summer (if summer even is a time of relaxation, but that's another rant for another day).

The thing that bothers me the most about Christmas is what the media and commmercial services have turned Christmas into. Christmas is all about money flowing out of our pockets and into pretty much no one else's. We're inundated with the call to "buy, buy, buy!" long before December 25th even rolls around. The Christmas Season(tm) has expanded its empire from one day up to fifty-five. Quite frankly, there's only so many days' worth of good cheer in me.

I suppose I could agree that Thanksgiving is a generally underrated holiday. There are a few (historically inaccurate, as Sarah Vowell points out) TV specials, but almost no movies or music. It's more than possible to celebrate Thanksgiving in a less-than-traditional way if need be. One year when my mother and sister went to visit my older brother for Thanksgiving dinner, I (tied to home by work obligations) celebrated Thanksgiving with my dad with a ham, rather than turkey. (It's actually a much better alternative for a few reasons. One, you're not obligated to make stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. to go along with it. Two, you can do so many more things with leftover ham than you can with turkey. Namely, omelets.) But regardless, this doesn't mean Thanksgiving should completely disappear off the map, overshadowed by The Christmas Season(tm). Thanksgiving is important in American history in the same way that Christmas is in religious history (okay, it's a stretch). I refuse to believe that the sole purpose of the entire month of November is getting a jump start on December.

Remind me sometime, I'll have to work on digging up the extra lyrics to make "The 12 Days of Christmas" into "The 55 Days of The Christmas Season(tm)"(c).

1 comment:

kfunque said...

If it makes you feel any better, Steve, I was at Johnstown's WalMart yesterday and they still had some halloween costumes left. I don't think there was any more Halloween-themed candy, but they had one side of an aisle still had a variety of picked over 75%-off costumes, makeup, and decorations.

However, they did have a lot of Christmas stuff out as well.