The holidays are my thing.
Come November 1st, I’m the obnoxious lady humming Christmas carols and browsing Target for a fancy new tree skirt (okay, it’s Target so I’ll amend: a moderately fancy, yet affordable, new tree skirt) as onlookers stare in contempt, nursing their sugar crash hangovers from binge candy eating the night before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m nursing that same hangover, but I am magically compelled by the spirit of Christmas to be cheerful even as the lump of a dozen fun-size Butterfinger bars, swiped from my kids’ stashes, sits like a rock in my stomach.
I love it all: the anticipation of the first snowfall, the shuffling through the garage rafters to pull down the bins of lights and decor, the warmth of spiced ciders and cocoa, and even–no, especially–the truly terrible Lifetime holiday movies that start playing on a loop. You know the ones. A big city lawyer woman heads back to her small town in the wake of a semi-tragedy and learns a lesson in Christmas spirit as she simultaneously falls in love with her old high school sweetheart. It’s TV movie gold!
I’ve always been a fan of the holidays, but my arrival in Duluth a decade ago cemented the love affair. What’s not to love about Christmas in the Northland? I spend too much money while shopping at The Festival of Trees, have perfected the art of parking downtown during the Christmas City of the North Parade, know all the best displays at Bentleyville, and this year, my oldest daughter and I will get dolled up to see The Minnesota Ballet perform The Nutcracker. It’s her first time at the ballet and I am full of giddiness and anticipation! I can’t wait to watch the awe on her face when the lights dim and the curtains rise on that stunning Christmas Eve scene around the tree. Truly, this city has mastered holiday revelry.
Despite the amazing way a seven-foot Douglas Fir smells and the joy a door-a-day Advent calendar brings, I understand that not everyone shares in my fervor for all things festive. I get it. It’s a lot of bright lights and bling coming at you all at once, and, traditionally, the holidays are the most stressful time of year for adults. The bills get steeper, the days shorter… seasonal depression is no joke. The holidays hold their ups and downs just like any other portion of the year.
But I’ve seen a growing trend on social media over the past few years: an excited post or photo about the holidays prior to Thanksgiving is met with vitriol from the peanut gallery. Naysayers shame the merrymakers for their overindulgence and tsk-tsk the cheerful for their careless oversight of that humble holiday sitting smack dab in between Halloween and Christmas: Thanksgiving.
On one hand, I understand the reason for the backlash. The “holiday creep” seems to come earlier every year. Christmas decorations are sold next to Halloween candy, stores open for Black Friday on early Thanksgiving Thursday evenings, and social media explodes into a frenzy over Starbucks cups. But then again, corporations have proven time and again that they do what sells, especially when their over-the-top and extreme advertising keeps them trending.
What about the rest of us, the non-corporate holly jolly holiday enthusiasts? How come we’re getting so much grief about our love for Christmas? We promise, we’re not trying to sell you anything–except for maybe a few school fundraiser tins of popcorn or rolls of wrapping paper!–but so often we get scolded for not giving Thanksgiving its due course.
Here’s my plea: please don’t mistake enthusiasm for the holiday season as a dismissal of Thanksgiving. The one does not beget the other. We’re total sticklers for tradition and customs, no matter what the holiday. To us, the most important part of any celebration is the enjoyment and observance of love, sharing in generosity of spirit, and the warmth of memories in the making. The more quality time and positive energy we can squeeze out of our families and communities, the fuller our cups become.
Both Thanksgiving and Christmas encompass the celebration of similar virtues; they promote gratefulness and the coming together of family, a period of reflection on the past year–or on faith–and, of course, they both give us reason to take pleasure in all of the luscious trimmings, whether they be on a turkey or on the tree.
So those of us who like to sing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” before T-day birds go on sale at the supermarket? On Thanksgiving Day, we’ll gather with parents, friends, and siblings and gossip, teach our children simple lessons in gratitude and giving, and breathe in the joys of togetherness and community. Like you, we aim to overindulge in the midday feast and proudly display our kids’ construction paper hand turkeys on the fridge. We’ll turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and marvel at the Rockettes and their gravity-defying routine. Some of us will even don jerseys and cheer on our football team all afternoon.
Perhaps we’ll have holiday lights outlining our front door, or the Pandora station will be playing Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” in heavy rotation while we mash the potatoes, but in a world where corruption, scandal, and other rotten stories saturate our news feeds, a little extra positivity seems altogether harmless, don’t you think? Why not let us get on with our happy holiday selves? We just want the magic and unity of this celebratory time of year to stick around for as long as possible… even if it means breaking out the jingle bell earrings in October.