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Posts Tagged ‘Hanukkah’

Time was, the Christmas season began after Thanksgiving. Macy’s Parade signaled the beginning. The next day, Christmas decorations went up, people began to shop and send out cards, and I would start making fruitcake. We had a festive month, full of good cheer, leading to the most magical day of the year. Those were the good old days.

At some point came Christmas in July. At least it didn’t detract from the true season. Then, almost unnoticed, an insidious malady began to invade our lives. Stores started to put out Christmas items before Thanksgiving. Black Friday became a day, not just to shop, but to storm retail outlets like hordes of anarchists. (Does “Black” refer to bruises?)

In recent years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. Is it stress—gifts to buy and wrap, plans to make, goodies to bake, the flurry of so much to do? Or is it the darkness of days growing ever shorter? But it’s always been that way. What changed?

Year after year, the commercial Christmas season inches up the calendar. Stores began to put out their tinsel in mid-November, then earlier, and earlier. Unsold Halloween candy is whisked off the shelves, to be replaced with Christmas stuff overnight.

When I give magazine subscriptions as Christmas gifts, come February, I get notices that it’s time to renew. Really? Two months after I bought them? The notices stop for a while, then pick up again in early fall, week after week, bugging me to renew NOW.

Last year before Thanksgiving, employees at Walmart were wearing Santa caps and reindeer antlers! “Bah! Humbug!” I said to one.

“I agree,” he said. “But they make us wear them.”

This year came the coup d’état. BEFORE Halloween, red and green shared store shelves with orange and black. I beat a hasty retreat, preferring to do without than be accosted by a too-early Christmas.

I spent Thanksgiving in Arkansas. That morning, my mother and I watched the Macy’s Parade on TV, the first time I’d seen it in years. Back in the day, the floats, balloons, and marching bands were the focus of the broadcast, with announcers quietly telling the audience what we were watching. This time, celebrities hogged the camera, gossiping with each other, occasionally referring to the floats and balloons in the background. What a disappointment!

I got home in time for Hanukkah and lit candles every night, which was comforting, but the Christmas spirit continued to elude me. My Christmas cards stayed in the attic. I put up no decorations, baked no fruitcake. The magazines sent threatening notices. December crept by. I was turning into Scrooge.

Was I to be visited by three spirits? As if in answer, a distant memory from elementary school crept into my conscious mind. I had been cast as Tiny Tim in our Christmas play because I was the smallest child in the class. I tucked my hair up under my cap, leaned on a crutch, and delivered my one line, “God bless us, every one!”

Well, Christmas was coming whether I wanted it to or not. I half-heartedly began to make preparations.

With the Winter Solstice, I had an epiphany. The pressure to begin the Christmas season earlier and earlier each year had the effect of shutting down my enjoyment. I resisted getting the spirit too early. Once past Thanksgiving, my suppressed enthusiasm remained bottled up. Do the retailers realize what they do to people when they try to cram Christmas down our throats in October?

I needed a visit from the Spirit of Christmas Present. It came in the form of my Christmas cactus. Eleven months of the year, this plant fades into the background. All summer, it sits quietly outside in the shade, getting water when it rains, demanding nothing. All it asks of me is to bring it indoors when frost threatens. Suddenly, it burst into bloom!

The days grew longer and brighter. I came out of my hole. I made lists and went shopping. The Christmas displays no longer offended me. I renewed magazine subscriptions. Baking fruitcake for friends and relatives and cookies for my grandchildren further bolstered my mood. I started wearing my poinsettia earrings and tacky shirts decorated with bells and holly, and listening to holiday music. I put up a tree.

What about the Spirit of Christmas Future? I’ve made an early New Year’s resolution. Next year I won’t let the humbugs spoil Christmas for me. I’ll stroll through unseasonably decorated stores with an air of detachment. The day after Thanksgiving—you won’t find me at the mall!—I’ll be in my kitchen baking fruitcake.

In the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”

(If you want my fruitcake recipe, you’ll find it here.)

Merry Christmas!

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