Ah, autumn. It makes me think of changing leaves, chili, football, and in Kansas City, eye-watering allergies. But now that we’re in the second half of October, it also means that were starting to see rumblings of the holiday season approaching. I say “holiday season” not as some kind of liberal War on Christmas©, but to actually reflect how the last three months of the year tend to run together.
At least, it reflects how people TALK about the months running together. I don’t do a lot of shopping outside of groceries this time of year, but we did go to Wal-Mart this week. I made it a point of trying to find of Christmas stuff, and in truth I was only able to find mentions of layaway, and in honesty it seems prudent to being talking about layaway for Christmas gifts in October. I saw no Christmas decorations, no Santas, and no holiday-themed candies.
Maybe Wal-Mart and other retailers are making a concerted effort to push back on Christmas creep. I do know that more annoying than the actual creep is people complaining about the creep, kind of like people who make it a point to very loudly proclaim how much they hate Valentine’s Day. It would be a lot easier to tune out the offending advertisements if I didn’t have people griping day and night about how it’s TOO EARLY FOR CHRISTMAS. Within the Church, I’ve occasionally see these complaints take on a certain sanctimonious tone, like the early stuff is somehow disrespectful to the Advent season. That’s particularly silly, because it fails to recognize that the S.S. Commercialization docked in Port Christmas decades ago.
But more than the weariness from complainers, I must confess that I look forward to the first Christmas decorations, no matter how early they come. This isn’t so much the religious angle of Christmas, which I value very highly and usually only want to see during the Advent season. I’m talking about the tacky commercial part, with trees everywhere, winter-themed commercials on TV, decorations everywhere, and 24-hour stations playing Christmas music. It’s a religious occasion for me more than anything else, but for millions of non-Christians it’s also a cultural touchstone, and I love taking part in that, even if it’s early.
I trace this back to my childhood spent in countries where Christmas was only of religious importance, and that only for a small fraction of the population. We didn’t see trees wherever we went, and there wasn’t an endless parade of Christmas specials on TV. I want to be clear that the Advent part was still important in my small Christian context, and that was wonderful. But I missed the cultural part that I would get outside of the Church.
So I’ve always taken a more laissez-faire approach to Christmas creep, even secretly looking forward to it every year. I privately listen to Transiberian Orchestra in October, and I don’t think that’s a problem. My son likes to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer all through the year, and I don’t think that’s a problem either. I’ve seen a world without the glitz and without the tacky stuff, and I think I prefer to celebrate with a larger group of people, even knowing that not all of them want to celebrate it in the same way. If that has to happen six weeks before it’s appropriate, I’m alright with that.