We are now up to Question #6 of Carrie's Get-Away Give-Away at The Slow-Dripped Life. This week she asked, "How do you feel about the holidays this time of the year, particularly the ever-melding of ThanksChristgivmasing that is continually being 'pushed' more and more each year?"
I've said for years that I'd much prefer to spend Nov.1 - Dec. 30 in a Muslim country, or at least holed up somewhere far away from "civilization" as we see it portrayed at this time of year. The "holiday season" seems to bring out the worst in folks, and even more so in retail business. It does seem to begin earlier and earlier each year, with Halloween things along side school supplies in September and Christmas trees next to Halloween costumes in October. WTH?? If you're being honest, you'll probably admit that you are sick to death of Christmas long before it ever gets here, because the stores have been pushing it down our throats for over two months by then!
In the "olden days" when I grew up (no, I did not have a pet dinosaur), Christmas displays in the stores weren't seen until the day after Thanksgiving. Christmas lights were lit up for the first time then too. At home, my mom waited 'til the beginning of December to hang lights in windows and start Christmas baking, and our real fresh-cut Christmas tree wasn't put up until around the 15th.
As a child, Thanksgiving was all about coming together with our extended family to count blessings and celebrate the end of harvest season. We viewed it with great excitement as this meant that Christmas was now just around the corner, a few weeks away. The memories I hold precious of Christmases growing up are not massive piles of presents underneath our tree, though there were always presents, but of the things we did together... decorating the tree, hanging wreaths on the doors and lights on the windows, baking tons of Christmas cookies, watching Christmas movies on TV, playing Christmas music on the record player (yes, I realize some of you have no idea what a record player is), shopping for small gifts for each other and wrapping them as best as our small hands could, hanging Christmas stockings, shopping for Christmas dresses, and participating in school and church Christmas programs.
There was not the mad insanity to buy, buy, buy in those days. Families did not charge Christmas to their credit cards, only to spend the next twelve months paying for the excess. We were thrilled if we got a toy, a new pair of pajamas, and a board game that we could play together. Mom would add a few special things, like the year she made red flannel doll blankets for each of us, embroidering designs around the edges... I still have mine by the way!
We opened presents on Christmas Eve at our house, since Christmas Day was always spent with my Dad's family at one of my uncle's houses or ours. Oyster stew was a Christmas Eve tradition at our house; to me it just doesn't feel like Christmas without it. And of course, being raised in South Dakota, there was always plenty of deep snow, and hopefully a sky filled with snowflakes to make everything clean and beautiful for Christmas.
Now, December means the highest suicide rates of the year. The pressure to buy more than you can afford, to push yourself to the point of exhaustion trying to do it all, and the loneliness of the many folks who are far away from family or don't have family at all, makes it a really difficult time. Emotions run high. Greed and grumpiness reign, customers line up hours in advance to shove and push each other in a mad attempt to score the best prices on the hot-ticket items, and in school, the children aren't even allowed to sing Christmas carols! Cards have become generic holiday greetings, and manger scenes no longer appear on public property for fear of offending.
I think everyone knows my stand on tolerance, acceptance, and appreciation for all cultures and beliefs, and I don't think my beliefs should be forced on anyone else. But, we can and should all share the traditions and beliefs we hold sacred. We don't have to hide Christmas in the closet! In return, I would expect us to be respectful of other religious traditions and celebrations.
I've rambled on long enough here, but I think you get the idea. If I had my way we'd ban the buying of presents for Christmas, end the office parties and endless gift-exchanges, and return Christmas to what it was meant to be... a simple time of coming together to celebrate the meaning of the faith that is ours. Jesus IS the reason for the season!
I would love to see the stores stop with the pre-promotion of Christmas, joining the few brave chains who have opted to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to "deck the halls" and initiate the madness. Realistically, I'm thinking this is a giant snowball that's been rolling downhill for quite a few years now, and there's no way anyone is going to stop it. BUT, that doesn't mean we have to buy into it! Keep Christmas simple and sacred, rediscover how meaningful and wonderful it can really be...and don't start the celebration until December!