Joining the Thanksgiving Comes First
Brigade, because I know I'm not the only one who gets kind of miffed when I walk into Fred Meyer (a slightly more classy version of Walmart, if you squint a little and it gets bonus points for having a coffee shop that *isn't* Starbucks inside of it) two whole weeks before Halloween, and the first thing I notice is that they already have their fake Christmas tree display set up. Or when I hit Walmart for some small, completely non-holiday related thing and I see Christmas decorations right along side the half-price Halloween candy, and a tinny version of "Let it Snow" is playing over the speakers, cheerfully driving me insane as I realize that this is only the beginning of two-and-a-half-months of getting A Consumer's Christmas Carol shoved down my throat.
Once upon a time, way back maybe five or six years ago (I know it's tough, but you can do it! Stretch those memories, people! Remember the days when Bush Jr. was still in office, Kayne West was all over the place, and a NCIS was one of television's biggest dramas - you can do it if you try!), department stores and television advertisements were content to take advantage of the fact that Thanksgiving came before Christmas, and holidays were celebrated one at a time. A magical time, that, when a month or so before Thanksgiving, cartoon turkeys and Pilgrims hit the lime light to sell you car insurance, spread the word that their store was having a "Huge Thanksgiving Sale with savings up to 50% off the original price!", and Thanksgiving wasn't just a quick bathroom break along the long, twisty road that was the Holiday Season, or an extra day to arm for battle before braving the Frenzied Consumer Masses on Black Friday.
Once upon a time, Christmas was more than a greed-filled excuse to supply your family with a bunch of toys, trinkets, and trifles that were destined to become lost, broken, or forgotten again in two months, and Thanksgiving was more than an extra day off during your work week.
When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was the marker for the start of the best, most awesome time of year. In school, it was the time of the year all of the teachers started having to go to conferences and end-of-the-year meetings to discuss Boring Adult Things, and because of it, classes got done a lot earlier and days off for the students got a lot more frequent. During the months of November and December, there were *maybe* three full weeks of school - otherwise, there would always be at least one day per week when we were let out of school early, and if that wasn't the case, we would have all of Friday off, and sometimes even Thursday or Monday as well.
Out of school, we knew that Thanksgiving was just around the corner, and that after Thanksgiving, it would be Christmas. Thanksgiving also meant *four whole days* free from the dreary halls of our grade school, a lovely extended weekend where we could sleep in and sloth off on our homework for a few days. On top of that, there was the promise of way too much good food and the chance to visit with family that we probably hadn't seen since the previous Thanksgiving. Perhaps most of all, though, Thanksgiving ushered in the Holiday Season - a very important job to a seven year old - and my most favorite time of the year, because during that time, everything just seemed a little brighter, everyone seemed a little bit happier, and cities would come to life after dark, shining with the glow of thousands of brightly colored holiday lights.
We wrote Christmas list to Santa of all the things we hoped to receive when he made his annual round-the-world journey, filling our tiny little hearts almost to bursting with the Joy and the Hope of the season. Christmas carols were a tradition, and they were special because that was the *only* time of the year that they were sung and every time we heard one, it brought a little more joy to our heart. Some of us had so much joy bottled up inside that we just had to share it, and so many a church group or friendly gathering decided to carry candles and sing the carols door-to-door, sharing them with our neighbors and being rewarded with hot chocolate, apple cider, and home-made cookies.
Christmastime was special. It was about sharing and family and hope for the new year. It might not be the same for everyone else, but for me, it was never about the presents. They were a rather nice extra, don't get me wrong, and like any kid I gleefully tore into the few brightly wrapped packages under the tree with my name on them on Christmas Morning, but what I remember most now, twenty years later, isn't the mystery and excitement as each new toy was revealed, or the childish disappointment when it ended up being Yet More Boring Clothes. Instead, what I remember the most is the slight sadness I felt after all of the presents were unwrapped and all the big family dinners done, because that meant that Christmas was well and truly over for the year, and I had to wait a whole eleven or so months before the holiday lights and carols would be magic again.
Christmas was special because it was only once a year, and it was magic because it was special. It gave me something to look forward to, and even the sadness of it ending was never enough to overcome the promise that I'd get to experience it all over again next year.
I still love the holiday season, but by the time it actually arrives these days, I am so fed up with the constant barrage of Christmas advertisements, the audio assault of carols being repeated over and over again in a hundred different styles on a thousand different radio stations, and the frustration of fighting wave after wave of fanatic holiday shoppers when all I want is some damned shampoo, that the spark - the magic for the lack of a better term - is gone. And I miss it.
Once upon a time, Thanksgiving came first and it ushered in the most amazing time of the year.
Once upon a time, Christmas was special and my childhood memories didn't so closely resemble a fairy tale.Thanksgiving Comes First
I know very few people read my journal, and I know some of you who do don't actually like Christmastime all that much - for religious reasons or just a general frustration at how commercialized this once special holiday has become - but I'm still encouraging you all to write your own entries and share your own reasons why The Most Wonderful Time Of the Year isn't so wonderful any more. Maybe if enough people group together and spread the word, the Big Companies will get a clue and we might just be able to rediscover the magic of the season shining through the greed-fueled muck that tries so hard to snuff it out.ETA Saturday, November 6, 2010
In hopes of backing up the Thanksgiving Comes First thing, I'm going to try and post either one happy Thanksgiving memory per day, or to share one thing I am thankful for. Here are the links to those posts so far.
Day 1 - Thanksgiving 2007
Day 2 and 3 - Mmm, mashed potatoes
Day 4 - In which I give thanks for fan fiction, because I am a Geek.
Day 5 - Why Thanksgiving is Awesome, at least for me