Here’s a thought. How about we all just say “No” to the Christmas rush now cranking up to full speed? Have you noticed? Barely halfway through November and the push has begun: for holiday shopping, holiday music, holiday sales, and holiday hype. Yuck.
Christmas? Now? Already?
No. Not yet. Please?! It’s just too soon. It’s way too early. It feels forced, rushed, fake.
NO! I don’t know about you but I just can’t face the looming visage of Santa Claus while there are still leaves on the trees. I can’t think about holiday shopping a full week before Thanksgiving. Wasn’t it just Halloween? I can’t stand hearing “White Christmas” on the radio for the next 35 days. I still miss summer! I haven’t put away the patio furniture yet. I can’t watch the barrage of cheery holiday themed commercials already running wall to wall on TV and the Internet, in the newspaper too.
I know this is probably a losing battle. “Christmas creep” is the norm now in our culture. That’s where 12/25 keeps sliding further back and back on the calendar. The shadow this secular holiday casts over all of December, even much of November, gets longer and longer every year. I don’t mean to sound like a Christmas crank. I love Christmas: in its right time, at the right time. I love all the kitsch and the music and lights and traditions. Heck I “do” Christmas for a living. I work to make this holiday a holy day too, for those in my faith tradition.
I just want Christmas to be…well, Christmas, and nothing more. Christmas: limited to days, not months. Christmas: about family and time off and faith. Christmas: with clear boundaries around it: a time of the year with a sane beginning, middle and end.
Some folks seem to be pushing back. In response to retailers like Wal Mart, Target, Macy’s and Michael’s, opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day as early as 4 pm, other stores proudly declare that they will be closed, until midnight. Nice of them to let their underpaid workers stay with loved ones until 11:45 pm, Thanksgiving Eve. Then the hordes will descend and the fights over big screen TVs and video games can begin.
Is that really Christmas?
Long ago my New England Puritan forebears actually outlawed Christmas as a holiday and a holy day here in Massachusetts. Up until 1870, when Christmas became a federal holiday, most folks in the Bay State worked on the 25th. It was just another day. Puritans and other faith purists saw Christmas as a pagan holiday, more about debauchery and drinking, than anything sacred. Not that I want to return to this extreme prohibition.
All I’d like to see is more sanity in how we as a culture and individuals mark what is supposed to be just one very special day at the close of the year. One day. A few weeks beforehand where anticipation and excitement lift up our spirits and soothe our weary winter souls at the darkest time of the year. A special season, made that much more sacred by its limited nature. A very short time when regardless of whether or not we practice faith, humans hope to be more generous, giving, kind and loving, especially to those who are hurting or poor or lonely.
Christmas is Christmas because it has boundaries, from midnight on the 24th to 12:01 am on the 26th. No sooner. No later. Right?
The best kind of life is one in which us humans know how to set and honor such clear boundaries. Know when to say “yes” and know when to say “no”. Remember when it is time to celebrate and when it's time to just wait for the celebration. Not easy. We live in a world now largely without boundaries. We can work 24/7. Shop 24/7. Go to McDonalds at 2 am and eat dinner, watch a movie on Netflix whenever we want. Text a friend or answer a text before we even get out of bed. There is no culturally agreed upon idea of Sabbath, or stopping, or resting.
No boundaries. None anymore. Unless we set them. For ourselves. Our families. Life.
So I will get to Christmas, when I get to Christmas, and not a day earlier. I’m still looking forward to Thanksgiving. Remember that holiday? So pass the turkey please, and put on the football game. Make space on the couch for a long nap.
Then, and only then, after that wonderful holiday, just maybe I’ll be ready to meet December. Not a day sooner.