I do think the holiday speed-up is pretty hilarious -- at some point we’re actually going to lap the year, and we’ll start decorating for holidays shortly after the holiday ends. And except at those very special stores where “Fairytale of New York” qualifies as Christmas music, I really loathe most of the seasonal soundtrack. I haven’t gone to a Nordstrom in recent memory, but I’m not sorry to know that I won’t have to listen to “Last Christmas” if I do.
But holiday decorations... I don’t just love those, I basically crave them. I don’t understand why they’re not up NOW. If I have to be driving around with my headlights on at 7 at night, still trying to have a productive day even though it’s pitch dark out, I want to be seeing some damn twinkle lights and an inflatable snowman.
I celebrate Christmas these days -- my husband’s family is Catholic, so the season means family togetherness and extravagant present-giving and Mass (which I don’t mind, because I may hate the “Jingle Bell Rock” crap but I love churchy Christmas music). But I was raised atheist and Jewish, so trust me when I say I have no ulterior motive in wanting people to put plastic baby Jesuses on their lawns. It could be plastic baby platypi for all I care. Probably that would be preferable. What I care about isn’t religious display, but festivity in the teeth of darkness.
Autumn would be my favorite season if the days were longer, but dwindling daylight hours mess with my head. It’s not that I get depressed from too little light exposure -- it’s more the way it throws off my internal clock. As soon as it gets dark, I assume it’s the middle of the night, which means that when it gets dark at 5 I think the day is over and it’s too late to do anything useful or have any fun. I’m basically a budgie.
The advent (ha) of holiday light season means that those long, long midnights at least have some sparkle to them. I may still have to run my errands in pitch darkness, but at least it’s punctuated by something festive and pretty. It’s like getting ice cream after having your tonsils out, or having a beautiful view out your office window -- a little consolation prize for getting through it all.
Some people in my neighborhood, bless them, put up purple or orange Halloween lights, which is completely awesome. But as far as I know there’s no such thing as Thanksgiving lights, so unless people jump the gun on decorating, the whole month of November is pretty grim. If Nordstrom starts a trend with this “not decorating until Black Friday” thing, I may have to sue them for the cost of a very large bottle of bourbon.
We celebrated Chanukah when I was a kid, even though we were manifestly secular. We didn’t make a big deal of it, and we certainly didn’t decorate -- my mom is not overly domestic, so she used to wrap our presents in cereal boxes and newspaper and one time the box from the Thanksgiving turkey.
But one thing we did do every holiday season was go see That One House, the house where people went completely Christmas-mad. There might have been one in your neighborhood too -- they tend to get more and more over-the-top as they get more popular, because their owners feel they ought to keep the fans happy by one-upping themselves every year. The one we went to had an illuminated Santa sleigh with plaster reindeer, a manger scene with light-up plastic figures, a set of bulb-bedecked caroling figures with an accompanying choir recording, candy canes taller than me, and a complete pantload of stars and lights and tinsel.
I didn’t believe in Santa, even then, and I didn’t believe in Jesus. (I did believe in candy canes.) But the decorations weren’t really about that, or even about Christmas, at least not for me. They were about light in a dark time -- and not just light but a flood of brightness, more and more every year if it makes people happy.
That’s something I do believe in, especially when the darkness starts so early and goes so long. And maybe it means we need holiday decorations sooner this year than ever.