Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas before Thanksgiving

It's annoyed me for years that Christmas decorations go up in shopping malls before Thanksgiving, but now people are beginning to decorate their homes in mid November, too. 

I've always wondered about the people who celebrate Christmas all through Advent and then take down the decorations on December 26th.  Are they so tired of it all that they're ready to get it over with?  Merriment, peace on Earth, Jesus' birthday: check, check, check.  Several years ago I spent so much time celebrating Christmas in the month of December that by the 24th I was done with it.  I'm sure that's not how it is for everyone, and I'm sure a lot of it comes down to how different denominations celebrate liturgical seasons. (do other denominations even have liturgical seasons?) 

But today I had a thought.  In our culture Christmas often has very little to do with Christ but is much more about other good things:  joy, family, love, warmth, feasting, gifts, pretty decorations, feelings.  To me, this shows a kind of bankruptcy - especially when it's Christians who are losing the focus.  And I wondered if we are so bankrupt that we have to fill ourselves up with good, but lesser things.  So we rush past Thanksgiving - barely acknowledging things like food, shelter, a good harvest, fair weather, family, health - in order to make ourselves feel better. 

A Christmas tree and some lights on our gutters are not bad things.  But I do feel like it's incredibly important to be thankful for the blessings we have, and to not lose focus on the meaning of a day that has been intentionally set aside for that purpose.  And I do think that part of giving Thanksgiving its proper respect is to keep the Christmas decorations in their boxes for just a little bit longer.

What do you think?  This was a thought borne today on a car ride and I'm not set on it yet.  I'd love to hear your perspectives and thoughts if you'd like to share them. 

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bonnie, It's Aunt Nita and I agree with you totally on waiting until after Thanksgiving. I love Christmas -- no one loves the lights, the music the baby Jesus birthday -- just the magical aura in the air. Yes, it can be expensive but I've never had lots of money to spend compared to lots of others but it's just everything that I love about it. But when I was a kid (I know that was a while ago) there were no Santas at the mall, no decorations in the stores (we didn't even have malls) until the Friday after Thanksgving because that's when Santa came to town via the Santa Parade. Then and only then was it officially the beginning of Christmas. I do think that Thanksgiving has just gotten lost these past years and it's sad because it is a Holiday that we need to celebrate (the Turkeys' may not think so) but it is a special time and needs to have it's time. I know people put the lights up early so they can take advantage of the good weather but just don't turn them on yet. That's my thought.

Maiasaura said...

I agree that Thanksgiving deserves its own space and don't like to put up decorations before Thanksgiving. But I do love to put up Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I guess I like to have them up for as long as possible, so we go from the day after Turkey Day to a week or so after Christmas. I don't know whether this puts us on the same side or not, Bonnie. :-)

Liz said...

Our whole married life we've not put our Christmas tree up until at least the 23rd, usually not until the 24th (although we frequently bring it into the house to let it thaw out on the 23rd and then decorate on the 24th). We don't take it out until the Feast of the Epiphany (and in fact it usually stays longer than that). Since becoming Catholic, I've focused on some of the other feast Days of the Christmas and Advent season. I make special cookies on St. Nicholas Day (cut out with special cookie cutters that I got from the St. Nicholas center), I make St. Lucy's bread, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and St. Stephen's Day. There is so much opportunity to focus on special days in Advent and to follow the lead of the Church and begin Christmas with Christmas. We show that we are marching to the beat of a different drummer when we follow the Church calendar rather than the marketplace's.

Kaitlin @ More Like Mary said...

I couldn't agree more! Some of our neighbors have had their lights up for two weeks already!! The stores are one thing-I realize it's just to make more money(not that it's ok with me) but individual families?? I just can't imagine celebrating Thanksgiving with a Christmas tree already set up.

I also think your observations on Christmas just being about "good things" is spot on.

Lisa said...

It does annoy me that stores have Christmas stuff up, as a way to "remind" me that I should buy gifts.

We typically put up Christmas decorations soon after Thanksgiving, but never before. I think our family has done a good job of taking that day to give thanks. We do take care to participate in Advent, but the Christmas tree is up too.

But I have a confession to make (hopefully you'll still be my friend): I was listening to Christmas music in the car yesterday. It wasn't premeditated, I was scanning the radio station. But I'm pregnant and depressed and sick, and it made me feel good. Kind of like how Arby's makes me feel good right now.

I also went to daily Mass, so I'm not just filling up on fluff ;)

Marla said...

We do wait until after Thanksgiving to begin focusing on Advent and Christmas. It used to bug me that society does not, but it doesn't bother me anymore. A couple of years ago, I just decided to enjoy the decorations and merriment. I am heading towards 50, and I am learning (slowly) not to concern myself so much with what others do in this area. This gives me much peace.

Jamie said...

Thanksgiving is my favorite Holiday. I love taking the time to spend with loved ones and being thankful for what I have. I refuse to do anything Christmas like until after Thanksgiving. When I was growing up my mom did not take down the Christmas decorations until a few days after New Years.

Jude and Alisha said...

I've been thinking a lot about this too - but only because I'm one that's ready for Christmas too early.

I've been justifying my readiness by this "inherent need that I have to create traditions for my family." But that reasoning doesn't work if I'm not trying to do that year round. And I've been really convicted about that.

So this year, starting around the summer or so, I've been trying to give special attention to other holidays and holy days and I think it's really helped. That doesn't mean that I don't still love Christmas the most and can't wait for Christmas music and warm cookies from the oven, but it does put everything in perspective for me.

And I'm writing this from my mother's house this Thanksgiving while longing to go home to put up the tree... but I won't put the tree up until our new Jesse Tree, Nativity set, and advent wreath go up first - then I don't feel so bad...

Oh, and I keep stuff up a long time - until after the Epiphany if I can, so does that help my case, too?

The Amazing Robert said...

Pre-Thanksgiving weather equals awesome and safe to be climbing to put them up. We believe that we can participate in the secular aspects of the season without compromising the sectarian aspects. It is afterall, what you make of it and the traditions that you establish. We love participating in the religious tradition as well as the "magic"( for lack of better word) of the season. We decorate inside after TG. I agree with you whole heartedly that Thanksgiving deserves it's time. Thanksgiving is actually one if my favorites.

Bonnie said...

@Robert - I agree with you on the "it's what you make of it..." comment and being able to have the secular and the sacred. I've seen some families do this very, very well.

@Lisa - we can still be friends. :)

@Liz - I 100% agree with you that how we celebrate Advent and Christmas as Catholic Christians should look different than how most Americans celebrate the seasons. That belief has helped form many of the traditions my husband and I are creating for our family. I also think that each family's "different" will be different.

@Maiasaura - since you are not Catholic I find your decorating traditions quite acceptable. ;)

Alicia said...

Okay, so here's my confession...I let Bryon put the lights up early this year because it was a beautiful weekend this past weekend and I feel for any guy (or girl!) hanging lights up in freezing temperatures. However, I have adamantly refused to turn them on until after Thanksgiving. This makes my 3-year old ask many, many, MANY questions, but it also gives me an opportunity to talk about why we aren't lighting them and what Thanksgiving is about. I think Thanksgiving is a forgotten holiday, and it does irk me that decor is in full force November 1. By Christmas Day I'm already tired of listening to Christmas music and overstimulated at any store I visit. Then it makes me grumpy and forget the real reason Christmas is celebrated. (Okay, that last sentence is blown a bit out of proportion, but you understand what I'm saying.)

Deeply Disturbed said...

I don't think we need a special holiday to be thankful in the first place. If you count your blessings every day you tend to end up with more to count. I also think that everybody is simply trying to do the best that they can. Most people tend to forget that - myself included. Nobody's bankrupt - different people just do things in different ways. How are lights being up any different than re-arranging the furniture or putting a bunny statue in your flower bed? You're decorating your home to make it more of a home for you. There is more than one way to cook a turkey.

Amy said...

Hi Bonnie,

I wanted to comment on your question about other denominations. I was raised Evangelical Protestant and for us, the "Christmas season" was the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas day. It is my understanding that most of the less traditional Christian faiths celebrate Christmas on Christmas day and leading up to it, much like the secular world.

It was not until I began studying the catechism as part of my RCIA process that I learned the liturgical Christmas season was the week after Christmas day.

Bonnie said...

@Alicia: I don't mind people using good weather to put up their outside decorations, but turning them on and putting up decorations inside - that's something different!

@Deeply Disturbed: I appreciate your point about everyone trying to do the best they can. I'm going to remember that! And I agree that we should be thankful everyday. But if you apply that argument to Thanksgiving then I think you should apply it to all holidays and then we have no birthdays celebrations (we should celebrate the fact I was born every day!), etc. Holidays make sense - they make us focus on something that we might not focus on every other day - regardless if we should focus on it or not. So I agree with you, but I respectfully disagree at the same time. :)

@Amy - thank you very much for clarifying that for me! I'm glad you commented!

Bonnie said...

regardless if we should focus on it or not

That doesn't sound exactly the way I wanted it to, but hopefully you'll understand. It's hard to think and type well with toddlers crawling all over you!

Jenny said...

I want to echo what Amy said. I live in the Bible Belt and my Baptist relatives have no idea that the liturgical Christmas season exists. None. They think that the twelve days of Christmas lead up to Christmas Day. Last year I told my aunt that I don't take down my Christmas decorations until after the entire season is over in January. She looked at me like I had four heads. Christmas in January?

Anna said...

The impression I received from my parents, who are eastern European is that advent is a 'quiet waiting' time of reflection, though a bit more festive than lent - but not much. I guess traditionally no baptisms or weddings were held at this time. St Nick's was celebrated with leaving your shoe outside the door. But decorations went up Christmas Eve, then to midnight Mass (but be careful it is bad luck to hear the animals speaking at midnight :o ). Christmas is spent in celebration with family, and Christmas Parties are held AFTER Christmas but before Epiphany. I am sooooooo sad that the Christmas Carols stop at Christmas Day when the season just starts.
The only reason we 'start' early is because I refuse to let the kids have a 'me me me' attitude during advent and I do NO shopping for 'stuff' then. So all my Christmas shopping is done, and as the world tried to tell them to ask for this or that, they know I am done and I will not buy more. (we do however focus on other an make cookies or little crafts) We only put lights up already when the weather was 70 degrees because otherwise it would not have been done at all. :)

Amanda said...

I agree that Thanksgiving should have its own time. And while I don't really like the Christmas decorations everywhere and the radio station that started 24-hour Christmas music the day after Halloween, I can honestly say that I kind of like having a holiday that isn't commercialized. The entire focus for Thanksgiving is to get together with family and friends and eat good food - no gifts or outdoing the neighbors with yard decorations. People also start their generosity for the holidays then, so it begins the "giving season" with donating food, etc., for families that otherwise wouldn't have a dinner to sit down to. I think that makes Thanksgiving one of the last bastions of "pure" holidays that hasn't been tainted by commercialism. The irony is that this perception of Thanksgiving has to be a personal mindset: if all of this was advertised as such, that might ruin the effect!

Anonymous said...

I thought the same way until last year with the Locke family!! Now it doesn't matter anymore to me!! Also I think that people could be doing it b/c they have people in the military coming home or something else!! I'm sure those people have there own special reasons for doing putting their decorations early!!!