It's that glorious time of year again, when everyone starts decking their halls, hanging their stockings, and thumpety thumping through the snow to find a Tannenbaum of their own.
"Wait, what?" you must be asking. "It's September, right? As in, still-technically-summer, leaves-haven't-really-started-turning, still-need-my-apple-cider-fix September?"
Yes, out here in the natural world, it is the end of summer. Geese occasionally honk obnoxiously overhead. Squirrels are becoming fuzzier nut-cheeked fatties. Humans dig through attics and basements for last year's sweaters, made holier-than-thou (literally) by mentally unstable moth hordes.
Out here, it is summer. But a department store is about as far as you can get from natural, and in there... In there, it's madness. Red, green, tinselly madness.
In there, it's only 64 days till Black Friday.
Terrifying to think of, scarier to visualize. Yesterday at a Hobby Lobby, I had to walk by aisles and aisles of red velvet and sparkly tree decor before reaching the yarn. But that wasn't the worst part. To me, the worst part was seeing it before me and realizing all that crap was there last week, too. And maybe even the week before. I've been desensitized to the early introduction of Christmas crap.
I'm not saying I hate Christmas. It's my favorite holiday. I love basking in the glow of a tree late at night, the slightest light bouncing off the snow outside. I love Christmas songs, my old blue nativity, and baking cookies on Christmas Eve for the firefighters down the street (an old family tradition). I love most of all the feeling of peace and love that you get that day when spending time with family. (It helps that all us kids are older now - the screaming is at least kept to a minimum.)
I love the holiday itself. What I hate, what I absolutely abhor, what I cannot stand in any way is the greed and commercialism associated with the holiday.
Every year, decorations and prepackaged gifts make an appearance earlier. I've seen them in August. To me, aisles decked with boughs of artificial holly don't represent the coming season and all their joy - at least not when it's still summer. They represent corporate greed and the desire to make a dollar on anything people buy. The question is no longer, "What's an affordable price for this stocking?" It's, "What's a price that sentimental saps will still pay? 40 bucks? It only took us 5 bucks to make this, but might as well scrape the bottom of someone's pocket."
I hate it. These thoughts, these self-serving desires of our society, have taken away the true sentimental value of everything. We still treasure certain things, but there are new ones at the store if we happen to lose them. We still revel in the moment, but that moment gets shorter every year. We're indoctrinated to want more, now, bigger, faster.
This year, I'm having a Buy Nothing Christmas. Buy Nothing Day is every Black Friday, and stands as a testament against greed and the need for more crap, which has been instilled by corporate America. Buy Nothing Christmas goes a bit further - I will not be buying Christmas gifts for anyone this year. I will make them by hand. I will trade with friends - their handmade good for mine. But I'd rather put my money on going to see and be with family. I'd rather put it toward something that matters more deeply - pick a charity, any charity.
(I can't deny that my desire to do this is also economy-driven. But I have deeper reasons too.)
If you've been counting down to Christmas since December 26 of last year, good for you. If you're already excited to put up your tree on November 1, have fun.
But maybe this year, instead of buying more tinsel, more lights, more artificial snow (seriously, this is Wisconsin), you could make bread for your elderly neighbor. Maybe have a cup of coffee with a friend you haven't seen in a while. Maybe gather the family to make cinnamon ornaments for your tree.
Whatever you do, remember the joy and peace, and make your Christmas about that - not about the pooping reindeer toy.