Celebrate Christmas all year long
By Philip Case
State Journal Columnist
You know I’ve always heard folks say you should “ … keep Christmas all year long.” Now, I know that’s supposed to apply to that good, warm, fuzzy feeling that seems to be pervasive in and around December the 25th when folks care a bit more for the unfortunate, speak a little kinder to their fellow sojourners on this plaintiff orb, and have a ready smile upon their countenance.
I’d like to posit that keeping the Christmas Spirit all year long includes putting up decorations any time the notion moves you – and that includes before Thanksgiving. Elsewhere on this page you’ll find a piece by esteemed colleague Kay Harrod that suggests otherwise but, to loosely paraphrase The Scriptures, “… for me and my house …” we’ll put up the lights and the tree whenever we please and leave them up as long as we please!
The Christmas season, you see, is all too fleeting. To limit the physical manifestations of the season – a.k.a. ornaments, lights, trees, and carols – to the time beginning after the Fourth Thursday of November and ending on New Year’s Day borders on sacrilege.
Ms. Harrod and I have been arguing amenably here at Your Hometown Newspaper for the last few weeks about putting up the tree on the filing cabinet. You’ve read about that tree in this space before: It’s near and dear to my heart because it contains special ornaments from those who work here and who have worked here across my more than three decades.
I want to get it out of the box and put it up NOW! In fact, I wanted to put it up a couple of weeks ago to start getting in the spirit – but oh no, Ol’ Scroogey Herself brought in a bunch of Halloween decorations and covered the space.
Those came down last week, and now she’s come with a box of Thanksgiving accoutrements, and they’re more to keep me from putting up my tree than they are about pilgrims dining with Indians, turkeys, corn pudding and the like.
Now don’t get me wrong: I love Thanksgiving. It’s kind of the “calm before the storm” of the Christmas Rush. Thing is, nowhere is it written that the Turkey Trumps the Tree, and I don’t see any reason why her pilgrims can’t repose beneath my tree!
Across the years I’ve spilled thousands of gallons of precious ink writing about Christmas and the Christmas Spirit. And as much of that was to get me in the Christmas Spirit as it was to hopefully give you out there in Readerland a boost.
There was a time when I used to spew forth righteous indignation about those stores playing Christmas carols and putting up the tree before the Halloween jack-o-lantern hit the compost heap.
A few years back I started looking at it differently by not looking at the calendar. If Silent Night in the middle of July kindles a warm Christmas feeling in my heart, then why should I look at the calendar and offer the well-worn platitude, “Rushing the season a bit, aren’t we?”
If, in fact, the Christmas Season is to last all year, then why not?
There are always those who get offended by early manifestations of the Season of All Seasons, thereby causing negative endorphins to be spilled into their systems, the vile bile of negativism which runs counter to the whole idea of Christmas itself.
Why it only took Our Own Governor a few days to come away with a different point of view when he decided to be politically correct and call the Christmas tree a holiday tree.
People, you see, are passionate about their Christmas and that passion doesn’t have to be limited to the fewer than 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Therefore I submit to you:
>Celebrate Christmas in July by putting up a tree and singing some carols.
>If the spirit moves you in September, decorate the house – the weather might be better too.
>Throw the switch on the lights when they’re up. Why wait until the day after Thanksgiving and then get all akimbo when someone down the street flips the switch on their display in October. (Remember those negative endorphins that aren’t in keeping with the Spirit of Christmas?)
>Leave the lights on the house all year long if you like. Turn them on now and again.
All in all there are those times when we just “need to see the tree” to get in the Spirit – or back in it.
And it doesn’t have one thing in this world to do with the calendar or if Thanksgiving has passed yet. Decorate when the Spirit moves you – before Thanksgiving, after the Fourth of July, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve … whenever.
For those who say “wait” because Thanksgiving hasn’t passed, that’s fine. Just let those of us who want to put up the tree before the turkey’s carved do so in peace!
Now, Ms. Harrod, can we reach a compromise?
And to you in Readerland, our poll question this week is to this very point. Go to the first page of today’s paper and vote – with the Spirit of Christmas and kindness in your hearts!
For everything there is a season
By Kay Harrod
State Journal Staff Writer
The debate is on with Spectrum Editor Phil Case. There shall be no Christmas decorations before their time.
I’m pulling out the authority here – Ecclesiastes -– “To everything there is a time, a place and a season …”
Carpe Diem – seize not only the day, but the season.
I don’t think we embrace Thanksgiving. We give it a passing nod, but for many, it is quickly trampled underfoot by the big race on Black Friday.
And it kills me to hear “I’m already behind.” For what?
The very thought of this day and what it should invoke in each of us is unique. A day to be thankful for anything and everything. It requires very little of us – a trip or two to the grocery and to be mindful of what we have – the people in our lives, the roofs over our heads, the brave men and women who are keeping us from harm’s way. The list can be huge or it can be as simple as a mother’s moment when she kisses the face of her child.
My young great nephew Evan Dearborn gets it. A couple of years ago he looked at me and said, “Today I don’t get presents, but I get to see you.”
We are still in the fall season. It is resplendent this year in its color – shades and hues of wonderful yellow, gold, orange, bronze and red. It provides the decorations. Mother Nature officially bestows upon us crisp morning breezes, sunny afternoons and chilly evenings. Her last big hurrah before Ole Man Winter takes back the earth.
Remember the 70s’ song – “Slow down you move too fast; Got to make the morning last.” What do we savor anymore?
My debate with Phil began before Halloween when he wanted to put up his traditional Christmas tree in his office. Thus began my standoff.
Since, I was going to be forced to look everyday at his decorations, I just couldn’t let it go.
So even in the midst of a remodel of my basement, I went into its throes and found Halloween decorations and decorated his cubicle.
He was silenced – for a while.
But then we began writing all the material about Candlelight downtown and he reared the ugly threat of his Christmas decorations – yet again.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Christmas season and all its lovely decorations and its spirit of goodwill. But somehow in all the mayhem we have created, I think we have lost its meaning; just as Thanksgiving has gotten lost becoming a springboard for the Christmas season.
We get so busy, almost to the point of wearing ourselves out thinking that everything MUST be done as though we are on some treadmill with a time or mileage goal. We do not have the urgency of the biblical Joseph looking for a place for Mary to give birth.
It is these “must do’s” that make us harried and unable to relish the holiday.
The decorating, the hours of shopping and, oh, the guilt we assume if we can’t get the right present or we think we might disappoint.
How can we get so mentally caught up in what many refer to as the pressures of Christmas?
That is what Phil’s cry – “Time for the tree!” – reminded me of. Let’s get it on – the race to Christmas.
We dismiss Thanksgiving and head straight toward the North Pole.
For me, Thanksgiving is about looking at the blessings of my life – like leafing through a scrapbook of memories. It is a time of reflection, a time to embrace the folks around you and appreciate them.
When I was young, our Thanksgiving Day was simple, warm and cozy. It was just the four of us – Mom, Dad, my sister and I. In the morning, Peggy and I would settle in the living room in our flannel gowns with cups of hot chocolate and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade – in black and white. Mom would come and sit with us. Dad would, too, if he were not out hunting or raking leaves.
And occasionally, Dad, who could not sing, would pretend a chorus of “Over the river and through the woods,” usually when he was coming in the door from outside, or maybe a hearty ‘Gobble, Gobble’ as he headed to the kitchen.
Our small family didn’t necessarily have turkey at that time; sometimes it was a big fat roasted hen.
I remember the windows glazed as the steam rolled from the pots on the stove. I remember the aromas of celery and sage.
At some point we would all be around the kitchen table doing what we could to help get the meal ready – it may have been as simple as Peggy and I putting the marshmallows on the cushaw or crumbling the cornbread for the dressing with dad peeling potatoes and mother icing a cake. But we were all there, laughing, taking directions, eagerly awaiting the meal we would have.
That same table would be cleared and cleaned. Out would come a freshly ironed tablecloth and the table would be set. As dad used to say when our meal was ready, “You only have to call us once.”
And yes, there would be dad’s prayer of thanksgiving for our blessings.
It was by no means a Norman Rockwell painting; instead it was a messy kitchen and us in our casual clothes, but I would trade nothing in my life for those moments.
And for the next few weeks I will be concentrating on being thankful – even for Phil who makes me laugh, though his decorations may make me cry.