Friday, December 05, 2008

Surviving the Yuletidal-wave

My home is normally Christmas central by the first week of December; decorations filling every nook and cranny and the familiar sounds of the season piped throughout the house. For the last few days I attempted to decorate, start Christmas cards, and fill the CD player with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, but the holiday spirit is noticeably lacking in my home and in my heart. I am just not in the “Christmas spirit” yet and refuse to march through a long list of holiday chores just because it is what I should or normally do. All around I see people miserably trudging through long lists exclaiming “if I get this done I can enjoy the holidays.” This sentiment confuses me because personally the enjoyment of the holidays is intricately woven with the holiday preparation process. Christmas is not about getting to the destination of December 25, but enjoying the 24 day journey to the big day. Isn’t decorating, baking, sending cards, and shopping all part of enjoying the holidays and the journey?

My Scrooge-like behavior this year has nothing to do with the economy, a reason many -news analysts are claiming cause the bah-humbugs. “Christmastime” starts earlier and earlier every year as retailers attempt to cash in on the wallets of holiday shoppers and this artificial lengthening of the Christmas season is killing my spirit. Most places had the common decency to wait until after Halloween to break out the red and green, but this year it is as if everyone forgot that the United States has a pretty major holiday between October 31 and December 25. Thanksgiving, once the official starting point for the Christmas season, is becoming nothing more than a speed bump on the race to December 25. Families still get together for the holiday created to give thanks for our harvest, our spiritual beliefs, our possessions, and our loved ones; but people now have the option to scarf down their dinners and take naps to hit the “black Friday” sales that begin as soon as the clock hits midnight.

Beginning on November 1 radio stations and digital cable started playing Christmas music, Christmas themed commercials broadcasted during every show, people not only put their Christmas lights on their lawns but actually turned them on! This is all occurring while I am frantically preparing for family and friends gathering at my home for Thanksgiving. Christmas is becoming like planning a wedding; a big, long, expensive build up for a short few hours of actual fun. The death march towards Christmas is producing marathon exhaustion for millions. To deal with Christmas infringing on Thanksgiving I blocked it out; ignored commercials, turned any radio station that played anything with a jingle bell, even avoided shopping establishments that insisted on putting up their Christmas tree before I served Thanksgiving turkey. After weeks of blocking out everything red and green it is nearly impossible to unblock it now.

Elongating the Christmas season is not just exhausting, it’s boring. By the time December 25th comes rolling around the music and decorations actually overstay their welcome. Kicking off the Christmas season on November 1 means 55 days of Christmas by the time families gather around the tree. The soundtrack and d├ęcor for fifteen percent of the year is holly, mistletoe, and all things “festive”. Kids visiting Santa on November 1st should realize how unlikely it is he’ll remember what they asked for 54 days later. How can we consider Christmas such a special time of the year if it dominates such a huge chunk of our calendar?

The process of preparing my home for a new season acknowledges the progression of time. It celebrates and embraces different traditions through each season. December means making yummy treats for the people I love, sharing family photos with friends, and singing carols; but it is only meaningful when done out of enjoyment and love. As much as I enjoy traditions with family and friends I cannot proceed with my usual holiday fanfare; my anger at Christmas being shoved down my throat in November is making it difficult jump back into my routine.

Perhaps this is one of the benefits of being childfree. We don’t have to decorate, or put on music, or string the house with lights, or sing songs, or bake cookies for the “sake of the children.” When we do it, we do it for ourselves. Traveling to family rather than hosting the holiday also makes it easier to skip Christmas. A part of me is a little sad I feel like such a scrooge this year, but I am not forcing myself to go through the seasonal motions just because. Plain and simple; if I’m not enjoying it, it’s not going to get done. The only person who is going to be disappointed is me (and maybe the husband).

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