last Friday in the car, i had the radio tuned to the all-holiday-music station. on Monday, i dislodged the box of Christmas decorations from the top shelf in the closet. last night, i started writing out Christmas cards. tonight, i'm going to the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.
the only problem? i'm not feeling the teensiest bit of holiday spirit. no wonder: it's still November.
years and years ago, when i was just a wee one, the McCarthy family on the next street over would decorate their entire house every Christmas. the exterior would be completely outlined in colored lights, there'd be plastic light-up figures on the front yard - Santa, Mary and Joseph, Frosty, and Rudolph as one big happy family. the windows were decorated, the front door, the roof, garage - it was, in a word, fantastic. they unveiled this unrivaled display each year on December 1st. i lived for that date. when it finally arrived, i would hover by the family room window as soon as it got dark outside - their house was visible from that angle - and wait for the moment when the McCarthys flipped the switch. oh, it was a beautiful sight, every year more magnificent than the last. to me, it was the official beginning of the Christmas season: come December 1st, the festivities could begin.
when i was home last week, in that same neighborhood, there were houses already lit up - before Thanksgiving. which i guess is no surprise, considering Christmas merchandise is available these days even before Halloween, which makes radio stations go to all-holiday music formats insanely early, which makes everyone think they're behind if they're not buying tinsel and blow-up snowglobes for their front yards in October, which causes extreme stress and downright madness, which is why people stand in line outside Best Buy at four-thirty in the morning, just hours after Thanksgiving dinner when they should be home in bed instead, angrily determined to get their hands on a marked-down plasma television because they'll be damned if so-and-so standing behind them gets their dirty paws on one before they do because this is Christmas, dammit, screw you and yours - i WANT a f%*&ing plasma TV!
in my opinion, Charlie Brown has it right. there's a reason they've shown that special every year for 40-something years (although, to my chagrin, ABC aired it last night - again, it's still November). Christmas has become big business, and every year i feel sadder about it. 'tis the season when retailers make up for all the money they've lost all year, pulling out all the stops to get in the black (anyone else getting 40 obnoxious promotional e-mails a day?). and 'tis the season when credit card companies sit back and listen to the sweet sounds - not of church bells or jingle bells - but to the cha-ching of people going into debt, most of the time spending money on gifts they haven't even really thought about but will still be paying for six months from now.
last night, as i was sitting on the sofa surrounded by Christmas cards and envelopes and labels and colored pens, i realized i wasn't the least bit enjoying it. i was just succumbing to the pressure, to the so-much-to-do-and-only-27-days-til-Christmas hysteria. most of us claim to love this season, but do we really? do we love it the way it is now? do we even remember it come January 2nd? in the last five or six years, i've felt a sense of relief when it's all over with, and jeez - December used to be my favorite month.
i think what we really need is a modern day Linus to remind us what Christmas is all about. (and i don't just mean the Baby Jesus story, although if that's what the season means to you, that's super.) for me, it's about baking cookies to give away, picking out and decorating our tree, spending time with my friends and family, watching the Christmas Story marathon on TBS, and singing along with the Muppets Christmas album, like the utter dork that i am.
and this year especially, it means slowing down. those people who want to rush through the season like a whirligig, well, they can whirl themselves right into the new year for all i care. me, i'm just going to focus on enjoying it - calmly, sanely, and stress-free.
starting, of course, on December 1st.