So, three weeks ago when we were putting up our Christmas tree, playing a little Bing on the old turn table, warming chestnuts over the fire, and sipping Egg Nog, I couldn't help but think about just how much I love Christmas. All the presents were bought, wrapped, and under the tree and we had already purchased the Christmas goose and cranberries. Each night thereafter, I cuddled with my kids and read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to them. We pulled out the Christmas programs on DVD and watched them all. Then, about a week ago we went and had our picture taken with Santa at the mall. Finally, the big day will come tomorrow and we will open all the presents. We'll have grandparents over and we'll have a big feast. Everyone will wear their Christmas sweaters and we'll really "Deck the Halls," so to speak!
We've decided to follow the lead of the retailers and start doing Christmas early this year to avoid the rush. Next year, I think that we'll move it up to October. You can't get started too early, now, can you?
Seriously, guys, this is getting ridiculous. Everywhere I go, I am already seeing Christmas stuff. People are starting to shut down and get ready for the holidays. Folks all over our city are already putting up Christmas trees and are decorating in their yards. Plastic snowmen are beginning to dot the landscape. The insanity of it all! The whole month of December is wiped out with Christmas celebrations and it is next to impossible to schedule anything that is unrelated. I was at a local Baptist association meeting last week and we were talking about some initiatives for 2009. We wanted to get some pastors together and everyone agreed that if we wanted to do it before January, we had to have the meeting before Thanksgiving. That is how it is with my church and just about everyone else that I know as well. I stopped the meeting and asked everyone if things were like this when they were younger. Basically, people are out of pocket for about 6 weeks. Everyone agreed that it was not this way years ago. Christmas celebrations did not start up until about two-three weeks before Christmas. That's how I remember it as well.
There are some reasons for this, I think. Some of them good, some bad. Here we go:
- As people live further and further away from their families, Christmas is the one time of the year when everyone gets together, so it has become a REALLY big deal. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" puts more of a lump in our throat now than it ever has. Christmas' little brother, Thanksgiving, is an alternate Christmas for many families that are split because of divorce or it is a time to meet with one side of the family or the other. Our family rotates Christmas and Thanksgiving between my wife's side and mine. But, gifts are exchanged over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend every year now.
- The commercialization of Christmas is completely out of hand. Our consumeristic economy depends on us spending truckloads of money on stuff that few of us really need or want. I recently saw that Americans spend $500 billion a year on Christmas! Alternatively, $10 billion would provide clean drinking water for every person on the planet and would help prevent the deaths of 1.6 million children a year that occur from lack of access to clean drinking water. Shocking, isn't it?
- I think that a lot of people are looking for the "perfect Christmas." There is this ideal that is promoted that has you gathered with your family and friends experiencing warmth, peace, and comfort. There are so many different ways to experience Christmas now that you can't possibly do all of them, so, you have to spread it out for six weeks or so to get it all in. It seems that we aren't getting enough of what we are supposed to be getting during the year, so we try to get it all in at Christmas. Or, we are so empty as a culture that we can't wait to start celebrating something that makes us feel loved.
Is any of what is driving the expansion of Christmas into November even remotely related to the birth of Jesus Christ? Remember Him? He is the "Reason for the Season," isn't He? It seems that Jesus isn't talked about much until right around the actual day of Christmas. We kind of wear ourselves out regarding Christmas and then remember that this is supposed to be about Jesus (or for most, family) after all. I know that I just explained the plot line of just about every Christmas movie ever made, but there is some truth to it.
So, this year I have decided to NOT celebrate Christmas at all until 18 days before. Why 18 days? Because that is when our church Christmas Party is. On December 7th, we will gather with Family Life Bible Fellowship and have our annual Christmas Extravaganza. If I can't fit it in in 18 days, then it is too much, right?
Everything else, I'm calling Festivus after the Seinfeld episode where George's father came up with a different holiday besides Christmas. I don't think that we'll do the "airing of grievances," the "festivus pole," or the "feats of strength," but I am going to survive this year by recognizing that everything that is not fairly close to the holiday or is not related to Jesus in some way is just Festivus.
In case you're wondering about Festivus, here's a clip:
So, no Christmas for me until the time is right. I think that I'm actually going to enjoy Thanksgiving!
Poll: When do you decorate for Christmas?