By Sarah Harr
Forget about the 12 days of Christmas; our lives practically revolve around the arrival of December 25th. In fact, as I’m writing this very sentence, there are currently 51 days, 13 hours, 9 minutes and 11 seconds until Christmas. To the dot.
Don’t lie. You’re counting down the days just like everybody else. It’s easy to tell when December’s lurching near- just take a look at Wal-Mart. The various artificial Christmas trees in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, the peppermint-flavored everything taking its rightful place next to the inferior pumpkin spice, and the inflatable, dancing Santa that stares you down in the gardening aisle are all tell-tale signs of the holiday’s long-awaited arrival.
You thought the hype over a holiday dedicated to collecting diabetes-inducing sweets and roaming door-to-door in silly costumes without being dubbed a lunatic couldn’t be exceeded? Well, think again. Compared to the red and green blurs swimming waist deep in wrapping paper, leaving behind a trail of lights and enough peppermint smell to make Santa gag, those unattended, sugar-crazed kids of last week must resemble halo-clad angels that sung over the nativity scene.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas; it’s the most wonderful time of the year. And besides, I’m in no position to judge. My family’s Christmas tree has been up for nearly four years. We’re dead set on a world record. When it’s out of season, it gets moved to a corner out of immediate sight; when it’s in season, it’s placed front and center of the living room, it’s shedding plastic branches and duct taped star on top a constant reminder of Christmas’ past.
But that’s a personal problem.
When you’re walking down the store aisles on November 1st, possibly or possibly not buying all the discounted Halloween candy, and you hear “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” as you relish the 80 degree temperatures, that’s when we all might be taking things a little overboard. We don’t get our fireworks for Independence Day in April, do we? No one is going hog-wild over Veteran’s Day, a praiseworthy holiday that often gets passed over as Halloween’s hangover. At this rate, Thanksgiving may as well be the forgotten middle child of holidays (no offense to middle children), a day millions of turkeys will be slaughtered and forgotten in preparation for Black Friday; a day I will know dub “the great turkey massacre” (no offense to turkeys).
Christmas is a special time. It’s a time where families and friends meet up after a full year without visitation. It’s a time to sip hot chocolate as you listen to the old-fashioned and newfangled Christmas carols. It’s a time where loved ones exchange gifts with one another under the dimly lit glow of artificial lights and a full moon. It’s a time where northern kids get to whip out their sleds and go sledding down the snow-covered hills like the scenes you see in old-timey movies, and it’s a time where all kids get out of school for two full weeks. Two full weeks.
No matter what, why, or how you celebrate this season, it’s a special time; but it’s also the time where “the gift of giving” is shoved down your throat three months in advance. It’s the time where commercials for the “shiniest, newest, most expensive whatever” air, and the kids’ eyes are undoubtedly glued to the screen. It’s the time where everything must go perfect, or it will infamously be remembered as “the worst Christmas ever,” leading your kids, their kids, and their grand kids to resent you for the rest of your miserable life. It’s the time where depression and suicide rates enter their peak. It’s the time where corporate greed, our natural default to envy what we can never have, and the stress built from those expectations mingle to create “the most wonderful time of the year.”
In the long run, Christmas’s premature arrival has done more harm than good. By the time Christmas does arrive, everyone’s “Christmas spirit” has gone as stale as the cookies you left out overnight for Santa. Or, the stale cookies you would have left out overnight for Santa, except the eight-hour Christmas dinner you prepared for an army of 300+ left you completely and utterly exhausted with a possibly broken oven.
Christmas has been idealized. Before the media started pushing the “holiday mindset”, things were simpler. People were happier. Christmas came at its own speed. It didn’t sneak up on you and leave you rushed for time. It didn’t become a four-month long festival. It didn’t come barreling toward us like a reindeer pulling a sleigh, but it drifted in like the first snowflakes descending onto barren ground. It came at its own pace, and people basked in the joy they received from the season of giving.
The ongoing debate of whether it’s too early or not to celebrate shouldn’t blind us from the true meaning of Christmas; whether it be three months in advance or the namesake’s day, it’s a time of fellowship with those we hold close to our hearts.
That’s what matters.