I blinked and suddenly my younger daughter's October birthday was upon us. While I was still suck in summer mode of bathing suits and wet towels hanging all over the house, tripping over flip flops and trying to decide how low to set the air conditioner, September was giving way to October and I had a party to plan. Hot on the heels of the mid-month party came Halloween. Wasn't it just Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day or the 4th of July?!?! Where did the year go?
Yes, I realize that somewhere along the way, we started a new school year. But even that has thrown me for a loop. I still drop off and pick up at the same time, in the same places, but what do you mean she's in 5th grade now?!
Suddenly, I'm turning the pages of my calendar and there are not many more pages to turn. Suddenly, I'm filling the squares for November with birthday parties for friends and class performances and... wait a minute! What is that? Thanksgiving! Already!?!?!
I've had this reaction from several family members and have even done it myself a few times. November? Thanksgiving? Yes, it seems to be that time of year already. And if our friends in the retail world have any say or sway, they would like us to skip right over Thanksgiving and go screaming into the holidays. oy.
A few years ago, the "creep" started to move beyond the bounds of Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday with "pre-Black Friday" sales the week before. We started to see stores gloss over Halloween, barely give a passing thought to Thanksgiving and start to decorate early. And with each passing year, those decorations it seems, come out earlier and earlier and earlier. I think it's time to stop.
Last year, several big retail stores shocked our delicate sensibilities by opening on Thanksgiving. The general public seemed outraged enough that one could wonder if the idea would be a short-lived and oft recounted marketing failure. Apparently not. Arriving at some stores early on the morning of Black Friday to find empty aisles and quiet check-outs was evidence of the fact that for some, the stores being open on Thanksgiving was a good thing.
This year, as I feel like time is really running away from me at warp speed, I've noticed the holidays earlier than ever. Before Halloween had even come and gone (and while it was still 85 degrees outside at my house), the fall decor was relegated to the clearance racks and the holidays had begun. With more than 2 months to go, stores were already pushing the holidays on us. Sales, decorations, music, lights, oh my! I was shocked to see that my local mall's Santa Clause has already been seeing kids for 2 weeks and the mall's ice rink is open for business too. What?! And as November marches on, it has only gotten worse. Well, I for one wish they would back off.
(Of course, stores barely pay lip service to Hanukkah which begins on December 6 this year, a full 19 days before Christmas arrives. I'm sure if I visit my local Target store, any Hanukkah items will be on clearance by Black Friday to make room for more holiday decor. )
Why do I wish the holidays would back off, you ask. Well, many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around the holidays. The three "big" ones, to be exact - Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A few summer holiday pic-nics and gatherings find their way in as well, but mostly it is those big 3 that I remember. More specifically, it's the sites and sounds of those holidays. Lots of food, noise and people crammed into Grandma's house. Thanksgiving was perhaps my favorite, because it kicked off the holiday season. Stores did not decorate early back then, and Thanksgiving was seen as the start. I loved waking up and spending the morning watching the Macy's parade (complete with Santa's arrival at the end) and smelling the pumpkin pie baking in the oven. The Thanksgiving parade on t.v. also meant the start of holiday commercials filled with toys and kids playing in the snow. (Who doesn't love the Hershey Kiss bells commercial? Seriously.) I looked forward to that time of year with much excitement and anticipation. I couldn't wait to see the big toy catalogs and make my lists for Santa and of course, dream of snow days and cold winter nights spent snuggled up by the fire (or the t.v.)
The retail world is slowly robbing us of these traditions. Gone is the anticipation that Thanksgiving brings, because by the time it gets here, we are tired of being bombarded with the holiday message. We are tired of the music and the commercials (and the catalogs in the mailbox) before December even arrives. Why are retailers so worried about our spending habits, that they feel the need to cram the holidays down our throats starting in September? Does it make the calendar move any faster? No. Christmas will still come a month after Thanksgiving. But it does make us long for the days without all of the craziness.
People often say that we need to "remember the reason for the season" and to "put Christ back into Christmas." As a Jew, that's not my message. But I do understand the sentiment behind it and these days, I can certainly understand the desire to get away from being buried under the weight of the retail message of "spend money" and "shop here." Is that really what we've become?
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, or Festivus, do you really need to go shopping on Thanksgiving day? Yes, it is a personal choice. For me, personally, I choose not to. And while I might start listening to holiday music a bit earlier than others, I find myself wishing that the holidays would hold off just a bit longer.
Let me get to Thanksgiving and enjoy the turkey and the stuffing and the fall leaves floating in the air. Let me enjoy the crisp air with just a hint of smoke from someone's wood burning stove floating along. Let me enjoy the sound of crunchy leaves under my boots, Let me enjoy my family. Let me enjoy being surrounded by the people I love without any material possessions being attached to that time. There are no gifts to unwrap, no trees to decorate. Just time to spend with family and friends, gathered around a table. No stress over finding the"perfect" gift or paying off credit cards or having enough money. Just spending time together.
Let me enjoy the anticipation that comes with Thanksgiving weekend. Let me enjoy seeing my kids eyes light up when they walk into a store the day or weekend after Thanksgiving to see a transformed world. I much prefer it over having to walk into that store for weeks (or even a month) before Thanksgiving only to be asked countless times why the holiday decorations are up already.
Maybe we've missed our window of opportunity this year, as the calendar flips down to the last few weeks of November. With Thanksgiving coming up next week, maybe it is already too late to "slow the roll" that the holidays bring. But can we at least say that we'll consider it for next year? Can we try just a little harder next year to enjoy Halloween and the Fall season and Thanksgiving before we run headlong into the holidays and shopping and wrapping and carols and such? Please?
As I write this, I can honestly say that I'm guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. I've already started shopping (as I normally do throughout the year), but I also find myself wanting to slow things down and make it last. I don't want the year to be over. Another year over means my girls are older and my time with them is slipping away. Another year over means parents and grandparents are a year older and our time with them is slipping away too. I want to slow time just a bit, to enjoy the season a bit more. To savor it and capture those memories to tuck away with the ones from my childhood.
So this year, we'll try to slow things down a bit and next year, let's slow it down a bit more. Let's get back to the traditional start of the holidays at Thanksgiving. And in the meantime, I need to go bake a pie.