Cennamology Chief Editor
I am becoming more and more old school in the way I celebrate Christmas. This is mostly due to the two cardinal rules I have for when it is appropriate to begin celebrating Christmas.
Rule number one: No Christmas decorations up until the day after Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, following this rule usually made me and my family the first ones in the neighborhood to have Christmas lights up, and we had a reputation on our street for starting Christmas quite early. Not only is this no longer the case, but now my house is usually late to the game in getting our festive light display up.
Rule number two: Celebrate one holiday at a time. The reason for waiting until after Thanksgiving was because the third Thursday in November is a very special holiday that certainly does not deserve to lose its identity by becoming nothing more than the first day of Christmas. Adhering to this rule is very important to me because keeping the true meaning of Thanksgiving is very important to me. It is a day to reflect on everything that we are so lucky to have. After focusing so much of the year on the negative and on working to get what we do not have, there is so much value in taking a day to be with your family and be appreciative of everything that is beautiful in life.
When I was a kid (which was not all that long ago as I am only 22), it was considered rather ridiculous when a store opened at 4 or 5 in the morning on Black Friday. This year, the stores that waited until midnight after Thanksgiving were considered reasonable. A number of stores opened on Thanksgiving morning and stayed open through the weekend, ripping their employees away from their families in order to pat the pockets of big retail CEOs. More American children every year are having Thanksgiving dinner without their mothers or their fathers. If the adults that run these stores do not value Thanksgiving, then why should the next generation of Americans? It scares me that today's children are growing up seeing Thanksgiving as nothing more than the start of the big shopping season.
This extension of the shopping season is not just the War on Thanksgiving, but the real War on Christmas. The increasing commercialization of Christmas is nothing new, it is becoming cliche. People are not simply losing the religious meaning of Christmas, but also the message of goodwill towards men and the importance of family.
When people hear the term "War on Christmas," they usually think of the annual Fox News sideshow where they report on stories of some department store having their employees say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," some elementary school putting on a nondenominational holiday show instead of singing Christmas carols, or some city hall in the middle of nowhere not putting up a Christmas tree. Essentially, they are framing the "War on Christmas" as a bunch of politically correct liberal grinches trying to take Christmas out of the public sphere.
One recent example is my home county of Montgomery County, MD. Recently, the school board there decided to strike the names of all religious holidays from the school calendar. So, instead of the calendar saying on December 25th, "Christmas: No School," it now just says "No School." Fox News pounced all over this, as did many conservatives who do not even know where the county is.
I just have to say one thing: if the words a school board uses to label a day on a piece of paper ruins Christmas for you, then you have a very superficial view of the meaning of Christmas. If Christmas is ruined for you when the city hall of Bumfucknowhere, Vermont does not put a Christmas tree in their lobby, then you clearly place more importance on how the government celebrates Christmas than on how you and your loved ones celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. And for that, I feel sorry for you.
One thing is clear: there is certainly no shortage of yuletide décor in the public sphere. The Christmas scenery at the White House and Capitol Hill (which is always beautiful) could be the focus of a Hoarders Christmas episode. There is also certainly no absence of Christmas on the airwaves. Christmas is ubiquitous starting the day after Halloween, spanning a two month period. By time December 25th actually comes, people would have seen hundreds and hundreds of Christmas-themed ads from every store imaginable.
One of the lesser-known Christmas specials that I watch every year is Sesame Street's "Elmo Saves Christmas." Even if you have not seen the special, you have most likely seen one with a similar plot: Elmo wishes it was Christmas every day, and you all know what happens in the end. Elmo realizes that Christmas is so much more special when it only comes once a year. Today, stores start getting ready as early as October 1st for the Christmas rush. We are on a slippery slope towards a three-month long Christmas. I love Christmas, but expanding the season to the point where it encompasses a quarter of the year really devalues the holiday.
Not only are the commercials starting earlier, but there are more per commercial break than ever. I challenge you to turn on your television right after finishing the article and find a single commercial break that does not advertise a Christmas sale. Good luck. The irony troubles me when I am watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which warned us 50 years ago about the over-commercialization of Christmas, and right in the middle of the show a WalMart commercial for all the latest Christmas sales comes on.
The pious Christian conservatives at Fox News should be much more worried about the religious significance being stripped from Christmas. But they cannot speak out about that, because they know that if they do their billionaire friends who profit from the holiday at Jesus' expense will be offended.
I love everything about Christmas: the music, decorating the tree, ornaments, church, dinner, candles, you name it. But I am troubled when I see other people worry that their family and friends will stop loving them if they fail to give them the right gift. This kind of anxiety has no place during Christmas time. If they love you, they will love the gift you got them. Giving during this time of year should make you full of joy, not full of fear.