I was at the grocery store last weekend and saw something that in more normal years would have irritated me greatly: a display of Christmas chocolates and cookies and Advent calendars, brazenly available for purchase a full week before Halloween.
In years past, I would have complained about “Christmas creep,” the slow expansion of the holiday season farther and farther into fall. Winter holiday acknowledgment should not begin before Thanksgiving, I maintained, and certainly not in October.
Christmas music playing over store speakers and festive displays twinkling away too early seemed perverse, a crass attempt to further commercialize a holiday already saturated with gifts and glitz.
Don’t get me wrong; I am no Christmas-hating Grinch. Normally, the holiday season to me feels like a bit of needed brightness in the dark of winter; we light up trees and yards against the long nights. The holidays are something to counter the cold and dreary ennui of winter. Perhaps that’s why I resist having the season start too early; I want to save its potency for when it’s needed, that period around the winter solstice when daylight is most fleeting.
But this year, I admit I felt no annoyance when I saw those peppermint chocolates and gingerbread confections, just a few shelves away from the Halloween candy and pumpkin spice mixes.
Instead, I felt a spark of happiness.
Perhaps it was because the entire year has felt like what winter normally encapsulates. Things have not been sunshine and roses during this pandemic, even when we had actual summer sunshine and budding roses to console us amid the world’s uncertainty. The darkness may have been metaphorical rather than literal, but it has been there all the same.
Then there is the knowledge normal holiday rituals will be disrupted this year. With Iowa’s alarmingly rising coronavirus cases, I’m skipping the holiday craft fairs and avoiding crowded Christmas shopping as much as I can.
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My extended family is not planning our normal large gatherings where more than 20 aunts and uncles and cousins crowd around the Thanksgiving table and then the Christmas tree. There will be no holiday parties to mingle and share drinks and food with friends and family.
I recently watched a video clip from last New Year’s Eve. A large group of my friends had a Roaring ‘20s party. We dressed in our flapper best and enthusiastically toasted the potential of a new decade. Viewing it now is like watching a clip from another universe. We were so sweetly unaware of what was to come.
But I suppose that is always the way it is; we cannot know the future, so we must toast to what we do have. Knowing the future would be too heavy a burden, I think; how could you enjoy the present if you knew when you would lose what you have?
So this year, I aim to say yes to every bit of Christmas cheer and silly celebratory decoration and indulgent holiday treat I can. I may put up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving, and who knows, perhaps I’ll leave it up through March. When so much is uncertain and we cannot have so many things that normally count as solace, I say bring on the holiday season sooner rather than later. I’ll take as much Christmas as I can get.
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