This piece was published in the Pasadena Star News on October 30, 2005.
When I was walking past the Halloween candy display in a local drugstore a couple of weeks ago I heard a Christmas carol over the intercom. A Christmas carol! We just finished overdosing on fun-sized candy. We haven’t even cleaned up the goo from the rotting pumpkin off the porch. We haven’t had Thanksgiving yet!
Perhaps it is just emblematic of our I-want-it-now culture, but it seems like the stores are celebrating holidays non-stop and they use every cause for commemoration for twenty-four hour sales and clearances. I saw a Columbus Day sale and I didn’t even get a day off work.
The holiday season now begins with Halloween and grinds on through the calendar with increasing frenzy right up until New Year’s Eve, leaving most of us exhausted, broke and possibly estranged from some of our family members due to overexposure.
Martin Luther King holiday comes a few weeks later – a Monday holiday we all rejoice in
because we don’t have to cook a big meal or give anyone a gift. The great civil rights
leader has his own sales now at the mall to commemorate his contribution to our country. Get a great deal on a car or a set of towels – all in honor of MLK.
Television has a lot to with our crazed approach to holidays and the massive amount of television specials, especially ones that showcase celebrities who sing their hearts out about happy memories while fake snow wafts gently down onto the set below. The heightened expectations of joy are sandwiched by commercials for toys, toys, toys. No wonder the kids get so excited and expect Santa to bring more and more and more. No sock with an orange and a piece of chocolate will do. There’s got to be a little electronic gizmo in there too. The stocking used to be an auxiliary gift with some sweets and fruit but now it has to have extra stuff too.
If we keep going this way, the entire country could end up with Pre-Holiday Fatigue
Syndrome. We could go back to celebrating Christmas after Thanksgiving, allowing one
month for carols, shopping, over eating and good cheer. That would be a traditional, even holistic approach. But wait - the pharmaceutical industry can ramp up their research and come up with a pill (red and green, perhaps) for Pre-Holiday Fatigue Syndrome and we can start celebrating Christmas right after the Fourth of July. Santa can wave the American flag and set off the fireworks.
When we have to wait for things, they become more enticing and exciting, without a lot of hype. Just like Cadbury eggs and Girl Scout cookies, they are special because we can’t get them any time of the year. We have to wait. Learning to wait for things could be a good thing. Having holidays and celebrating for three solid months of the year can set up false expectations for children, not to mention over stimulating them.
Most of life is spent in tedium and repetition. Going to school for children and going to work for adults is routine. Holidays are there for us to anticipate and to share with one another, especially during this dark time of year. Christmas lights are meant to brighten
our December nights.
Our holidays need to follow a natural progression – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve – one at a time, in their own time. Cramming them together for the sake of commerce denigrates their spirit and leaves us all tired and cranky. Surely the cure is to celebrate each in a reasonable way so our children can learn the delights of anticipation and the joys of sharing.
Kathleen Vallee Stein