Fall is my favorite time of year. Football season, cooler weather, fall colors, and the holiday season, as it used to be.
Whatever happened to the holidays? Seems like now they are all run together so we have HalloThanksMas. Should have a mascot like a turkey wearing a mask, carrying a bag of candy and gifts and holding a credit card machine.
All the items for the holidays are available from summer on these days. No real distinction in season anymore, at least from my perspective, which as we already know, is skewed or maybe even skewered.
I remember as a kid there were 3 separate fall holidays:
1. Halloween (I know some of you don’t count that, but for kids and some adults, that is a big deal),
2. Thanksgiving, and of course,
3. Christmas (sorry if you are of a faith that does not celebrate).
When the Halloween costumes showed up IN OCTOBER, we went crazy going to Wal Mart, though usually the costume came home to us and mom and dad decided what we would be until we got old enough to select. There were no Halloween stores open year round and we usually were a cartoon character, super hero, or a hobo, wearing dad’s old shirt and a pillow to make you fat, which at that time, was not considered insensitive. Today, they will send you to a class for sensitivity education if you “make fun” of a hobo, or a fat (geez, weight challenged) person, by dressing up and begging for candy. FYI, the class is short and relatively painless so if you feel like it, go ahead.
Anyway, once Halloween stuff was gone, it was time for Thanksgiving. I don’t think kids get too worked up over Thanksgiving anymore. I used to be so excited because it meant family get togethers with my cousins, grandparents, etc., loads of food, and my favorite pies, etc. !!! Later on it meant football also, which really means naptime (turkey coma). Aside from that, I remember Thanksgiving class projects (hand turkeys for mom to put on the fridge, pilgrim hats,. etc.) and the school Thanksgiving program where the Pilgrims and Indians (Sorry I guess now it should be the visitors from Europe and the Native Americans) had the first Thanksgiving and apparently pardoned a turkey? As we have learned, they probably didn’t have turkey anyway. Was this an invention by Butterball to drum up business? Actually, in 5 years, the kids will likely be taught it was a Vegan meal, but I can’t go there. Gee wiz, why do we have to go and learn all the facts about things? Ruins all the good legends. Just look at the Easter Bunny and Bigfoot!
Of course, for a child, the ultimate holiday occurs AFTER Thanksgiving and it seemed like FOR STINKIN EVER till it arrived. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas entered into a time warp somehow and lasted half a year. That must be why the rehearsals for Christmas pageants took so long. It was magical when Christmas decorations began to appear and the stores STARTED stocking after Thanksgiving, not labor day. One of my favorite memories was going to see the Christmas lights in the neighborhoods that really decorated in a big way. Naturally, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were the highlights.Santa (don’t touch my Santa fantasy) was always good to us, no matter what. We used to revel in our gifts, and even though back then there were not as many and the gifts were not as extravagant as today’s kids are accustomed to, they were just as special.
I feel that the spiritual implication of Christmas was more heavily emphasized back then also. You never heard of lawsuits over nativity scenes on public property. Litigious people taking schools to court because they included a Christian reference in a Christmas play. Ridiculous. I wish there was a greater spiritual focus in the Christmas holiday today. Unfortunately, it seems that today the emphasis is on how much we can fit under the tree. Which trip we can take? How soon can I get back to the stores for the after Christmas sale? The mega-church I used to attend puts on 25 Christmas services the week of Christmas to accommodate the busy schedules of the people, which is nice, but in my mind it also lessens the importance of the service, since you can just pick one to go to and the need to plan to get to the “special” Christmas service is lessened. Thy do the same thing at Easter. They are full blown productions and while the message of Christ is present in each, I yearn for a simpler time.
I think its terrible the way the shopping focus has overtaken the holiday season. BLACK FRIDAY now seems to be the holiest day of the year for shoppers who want to save a little money but exhaust themselves and their wallets while doing it.
“OOH. Look how much money I saved when I bought this $1000 tv.”
That concept is now lost on me. Maybe it’s because of my new marital and financial status this year. Maybe I am still in a tryptophan induced fog from eating too much turkey, but I really don’t think so. As I get older, the amount of turkey I eat goes down and the amount of water and antacids I take increases. The old Alka Seltzer jingle “Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh what a relief it is” now makes perfect sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is how the people in our country can be in so much debt, yet go further into debt each Christmas season, buying things we don’t really need. I mean do we really need more stuff in our lives? Look at how many of us need storage facilities for our extra stuff. George Carlin talked about “our stuff” 25 years ago and it hasn’t gotten better. When is the last time you saw a storage facility being torn down?
I was going to volunteer this Thanksgiving but I didn’t. I was invited by a dear family (who happens to be very wealthy) to spend Thanksgiving with them. While I enjoyed the dinner and the company, and not being alone on Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but think of those who have never seen a home like theirs, much less been asked to eat there. While I was very welcome and made to feel very comfortable by my hosts, I felt very out of place. I do not have money or travel in wealthy circles and the conversations during my visit made that very clear to me. Discussions of world travels, celebrity encounters, donations and support of the arts,(which I applaud) and even the salaries of NFL players and entertainers made me think of how much waste there is and how much could be redirected to worthy causes if those with resources are inclined to do so.
Since I am not one with resources to donate and support the underprivileged financially, I plan to volunteer this Christmas. It might be at a homeless shelter or at some other location feeding the less fortunate. I volunteered last year and I have never done anything that meant more to me than helping someone who is truly down on their luck. Makes me realize there is always someone in worse shape than you are. I might attend a simple Christmas Eve service and count my blessings, despite a hard year. Maybe refocus my life and efforts in a way that helps me remember there is still more good than evil that exists in this crazy world I live in. Who knows?
What I do know is that helping someone else is more rewarding to me than any object I receive from another person. Giving from your heart, of your time and goodwill, without receiving a tax write-off, a “free gift”, or anything but a good feeling is what it is all about and believe me, it can be addictive. Helping others is what the holiday season should be about in my opinion. But what do I know? “I probably just have gas or perhaps a bit of undigested cheese”, to paraphrase a certain Mr. Scrooge, who eventually learned the true meaning of the season. I wish you the best during the next month and recommend you avoid the mall. Instead, visit a shelter this year. Don’t just send a check. Bring the famiily and help out in person. Mr. Scrooge and I believe your soul will be better for it.