The stash of Halloween candy has dwindled to the anemic lollipops and generic hard candies. “Find gloves and scarves” is written on to-do-lists, and soups and root vegetables have been welcomed back into the home. This can only mean one thing: it’s time to start the frenzy we politely call “the Holidays.” Full disclaimer: I’m not sure who invented the colloquialism and I’m not entirely sure how encompassing it is. I think it is the categorization of; Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations. Like vegetarianism, the category seems pliable enough to fit the individual’s needs. “Christmas” can be traded for “solstice” or “Chanukah” or “Kwanza.” Which, as you can well imagine, does not help my confusion. But no time for such concerns. Veterans Day is almost upon us. We must move and move fast.
Retail displays taunt us with their readiness as do television advertisements. “You are already behind, you may never catch up!!!” Even philanthropy (indisputably the very best product of the “season”) has jumped the gun. The first New York Times Neediest Cases has appeared this week (originating 100 years ago on December 15th.) I don’t think it’s anyone’s imagination that the frenzy starts earlier and earlier every year. If only we treated our impending retirement needs in this manner!
I am no Grinch. Really. I love Thanksgiving; a holiday of food, family, friends, parade and pie. I love how the world gets decorated for Christmas and everyone seems genuinely giddy. I adore the classic movies of the “season.” My November and December would not be complete without visits from Natalie Wood (“I believe, I believe, it’s silly, but I believe”), Jimmy Stewart (“Attaboy Clarence”), the Heat Miser, Rudolph and yes, The Grinch. I also love an excuse to dress a little fancy and feel grateful for invitations which allow me to do so. I simply love the festivities, but not, definitely not, the frenzy.
The frenzy is responsible for people incurring consumer debt, often for gifts not needed or wanted. At times, the consumer debt is so disproportionate to the household income, it takes almost a year to recover (and start all over again.) Gift cards (their own evil web of exploitation) are purchased in huge amounts (evidently cash is offensive but an Old Navy gift card is not.) Big box retailers are doing their part during these tough economic times and offering lay-away. For a fee, you can have the retailer maintain possession of an item as you make regular payments (cement shoes are optional.) The financial burden aside, the emotional toll this frenzy takes is absurd. It is often the women in our culture who are lured into this vortex. Decorating, baking, greeting cards, photos, shopping, wrapping, delivering, cooking, entertaining, usually (but not always) defaults to the woman in the household. I am reminded of my friend’s mother-in-law, whom after hosting her very large family (yet again) one Christmas, plopped down on the couch with a large alcoholic beverage and proclaimed; ‘It’s Christmas for me too you know.” Of course, she’s also the woman who gave my friend a Christmas theme sweater for her (summer) birthday explaining; “It’s for the holidays!” Victim or perpetrator? You decide.
So I will hold my head high as I resist the siren song of holiday frenzy. I will affix my festively adorned blinders and grab all the joy of this season that is there for the taking. I will walk past the shops, admiring their windows. I will peruse the magazine layouts and shiny catalogs (because darn it, they’re pretty.) I will pour sherry and pass chocolates at our family’s annual reading of David Sedaris’s Holidays On Ice as Johnny Mathis plays. And I will wish the same for you. Happy Holidays!