Ho, ho, hold on.
Last year a priest gently admonished me for having my Christmas tree up during Advent. “It’s a season of waiting and anticipation,” he explained, encouraging me to observe Anglican custom and decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. (Maybe that’s why the cats pulled it down: they’re traditionalists.)
I like Christmas. A lot. But this year, it has been made abundantly clear to me that there can definitely be too much of a good thing.
When I was 19, I took a semester off from college to earn money for my imminent transfer to New York, and spent the holiday season working at the Williams-Sonoma at Pioneer Place in downtown Portland. I recall that I had to work late on Thanksgiving in order to decorate the store in holiday fashion for Black Friday. That’s right, not a garland or bow or bauble or twinkly light or treacly carol until The Day After Thanksgiving, when suddenly the mall burst into yuletide splendor.
This year, the retail holiday season seems to have started around October 1. That’s about the time I noticed that my local Fred Meyer store had cleared out the patio furniture and replaced the tables and lounges with pre-lit trees, ornaments, and inflatable Santas. Seriously, October.
I recognize that this is largely due to the retail world’s anxiety about the economy. As I now work for a giant apparel company and my bonus next year depends on our sales figures, I’m not unsympathetic. It’s even worked to my advantage because I bought my new tree (7.5 feet! Yes, I am a Christmas Size Queen, which can be sung nicely to the tune of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) at a great price at the pre-season sale.
Still, it seems to me that the magic of the season is muted, and I suspect that’s largely because I’ve been seeing holiday displays in the stores for two months now. I thought stores changed from “Merry Christmas” to “Seasons’ Greetings” as an act of sensitivity, but now it’s appropriate because Christmas literally lasts for three months.
I am reminded of the exchange between Ebenezer Scrooge and his nephew: “You keep Christmas in your way, and let me keep it in mine.” “Keep it? But you don’t keep it!”