Christmas Comes But Six Months a Year

October 19, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…already.

Yeah, stores start peddling Christmas crap early.  But when I saw the eggnog in the grocery store this week, it just seemed weird.  Who is buying Halloween candy and eggnog?

Many Christians are gearing up for another round in the battle for Christmas: demanding that cashiers reverently say, “Merry Christmas” instead of the abhorrently sacriligious “Happy Holidays,” and planning the biggest, most garish Nativity scenes for courthouse steps to show everyone why Christmas kicks Hanukkah’s and Ramadan’s asses.  Christmas is as American as Jesus and apple pie, and if there’s one thing we take as seriously as America, it’s Christmas.

But we’re forfeiting a key battleground in the fight for Christmas’ spirit, and if we give it up, all may be lost.  I’m going to tell you what it is, and propose a new Christmas tradition.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like I’m Going to Vomit

When I was a kid, it was sad to see a store open on Thanksgiving.  That was a radical thing.  A store that was open on Thanksgiving was giving shoppers a rare chance to get a leg up on Christmas shopping, a whole day before Black Friday.  As we drove to our grandparents, we felt sad for the people stuck working that day.

Of course, now it’s uncommon for a store to be closed on Thanksgiving.  And every year, the start of the Christmas season seems to inch forward on the calendar.  It starts small, with a few innocent decorations in the back corner on November 1.  But now, I pretty much want to projectile vomit on every plastic yard Santa every time I walk into any store, starting on October 1.  I’m pretty sure Christmas 2012 will start on Labor Day.

It’s not just secular stores.  I think Hobby Lobby has a Christmas aisle eleven months of the year.  I hate Hobby Lobby.

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

I guess we can’t blame the stores.  We’ve trained them to do this, and they’ve trained us.  When Black Friday is the day your business finally makes money all year, who wouldn’t want to try to extend that magic?  So, they’ve trained us to be keeping our eyes open for the first sprinkle of Christmas savings.

And like trained animals, we beg for Christmas treats whenever they are dangled in front of us.  Stores put out Christmas crap earlier and earlier and stay open on Thanksgiving because shoppers respond.  We go out and buy all that junk in October.  All that eggnog won’t keep until it’s actually cold outside.  Someone had already bought a few cartons of it.  What a tool.

Personally, Christmas is so saturated, I need to detox from it for a solid eleven months.  It just becomes a routine, not something to celebrate.  You know what they say: “Christmas comes but six months a year!”  Blech.

That’s what I resent most about the stores.  They are taking “my” holiday, a holiday I genuinely enjoy, and are making me start to hate it, dread it, revile it.

Keep Christmas in Its Cage

It has become clear to me that Christmas is out of control.  It has become a hideous, rabid monster whose gaping maw will not be sated with a plate of cookies.  It preys on and threatens to swallow up every slower, weaker holiday in its path.  It must be stopped.

So I’m proposing a new Christmas tradition.

Saying “No.”  Telling stores to just stop it.

Don’t buy your Christmas crap until Black Friday.  Get the other holidays out of the way first.  Be thankful for one freaking day before you go on a credit card fueled buying binge.

Let’s start an online campaign, and not like “don’t buy gas days,” because those are dumb.  If Christmas cannot be beaten, then it must be kept in its cage, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Tell me when does your “Christmas season” start.  Are you already on the prowl for early deals, or does the thought of Christmas already make you sick?

38 responses to Christmas Comes But Six Months a Year

  1. Seasons Greetings, Ebenezer,

    Does this mean you are not going to buy me a present?

    John

  2. I have to agree, Matt. I really like your idea of keeping Christmas in its cage.

    I’m starting to distinguish between celebrating Christmas and celebrating Advent. I can only enjoy Christmas in small, contained doses before the commercialism becomes too obnoxious and the Christmas carols make my ears bleed. I want to try to preserve what I can of the sweetness of Advent.

    There you have it.

  3. Well done. I feel the same. Have you ever seen the documentary “What Would Jesus Buy” with the Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir? It’s a hilarious yet said commentary on the materialism that has overtaken Christmas. A must see is the scene where the go to Bentonville, Arkansas and cast the demons out of the Walmart headquarters property.

    My mom works at Sears and she would often speak of their planning meetings and delivery of their Christmas items in the 1st quarter or early 2nd.

  4. Matt, I was looking for where we were going to sign up for this online campaign of yours. Does it have its own web page or are we all going to post about it on the same day on our blogs? I’m in if you will give me details!

    We don’t do much Christmas anymore. I mean, we decorate because we already own the decorations. But I’ve noticed we don’t put as much out as we used to. Gift buying is at a minimum. Reading the Christmas story out of the Bible before lunch is “in”. Because our celebration has become sparing, we don’t need/want the Christmas season to start so early. I like watching football on Thanksgiving day – not reading all of the sales fliers in the newspaper that tell us about the next day’s sales.

    As for Hobby Lobby – I like it. They generally have what I need for crafts and they are much closer to our house than any of their competitors. I like that there are usually Christian hymns playing in the background that I end up singing along with (softly). I like that they don’t work on Sundays. I don’t like the Christmas stuff that they have out all year long, but it is not near what I need for crafting, so I just avoid those aisles.

  5. “It just becomes a routine, not something to celebrate.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more…

    I don’t know what it is..

    Maybe it’s the 9 to 5 grown up Job…

  6. Interesting post, but too early. :)

    First, Christmas is a federal holiday. If we are not going to have it, then have Congress cancel it, or change it to Winter Solstice Day.

    I like Christmas crèche scenes, snow, lights and all that… I say “Merry Christmas” and think it sort of funny that every cashier, thus far, sheepishly says the same in retrun here in bluest state.

    The whole thing is not big deal to me. I love the Christmas season, and do my shopping when it’s cold – for about 2 hours. Plus, we get our holiday bonus the week of Christmas, so it does keep things focused.

    Even for me it’s about the money!

  7. Went to Home Good last week looking for a fall tablecloth for my Grandma. They were out. They were out of almost everything fall…but the had 3 AISLES of Christmas. WHA???

    To answer your question, give me a few good deals on Cyber Monday and I’m a happy girl.

  8. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?? Gimme, Gimme, gimme?!?!?

    Extending the “Christmas Season” has gotten out of hand – commercially speaking of course. By the time Christmas actually arrives, I’m sick of all the decorations, music, commercials clamoring for a donation, etc. What happened to simply enjoying the days and holidays we have? Do I have to start wearing an elf costume to the local church’s “Fall Festival” on Oct. 31?

    Honestly, because my wife and I are following Dave Ramsey’s plan, we start shopping for Christmas in September/October as we see deals and as we have the cash on hand. We try to be done by Thanksgiving. Why? So we can enjoy Thanksgiving with family and spend the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas actually enjoying our kids’ school programs, going to see Christmas lights, and maybe a church program – instead of fretting over finding time to go shopping and spend money we don’t have.

    Then when Christmas Eve / Day arrives, we are not stressed and can spend the time with family. Read from Luke 2, remember the gift that God has given us and be thankful.

    We made this change when our kids were small and I wouldn’t change a thing!

  9. For Liturgical churches the season of Advent is four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and then Christmas is a feast that lasts for 12 days. I try to not put up a Christmas tree until Christmas eve, and then I leave it up when everyone else has theirs on the side of the road until January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.

    I shop for Christmas when I have the money, and I avoid Black Friday like the plague. My sister is a Penny’s store manager is I know what she goes through.

  10. I am right with you, Matt! I hate going into the store in October and seeing Christmas stuff. I rarely buy anything before November.

  11. I love Christmas and set up my house in mid-November. I turn my house around. It’s a big deal to bring down the Christmas stuff from the attic, pack away my regular things so I try to maximize the time it is displayed.

    I’m also not American, and our Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October.

    Christmas is the time of year when, despite reports to the contrary, people are more open to hearing the gospel message. You can invite non-Christians to church and they will not be offended when Jesus is preached.

    Why not set up a campaign to celebrate the real reason we give to each other, because of the awesome gift we received from Christ? Why not set up a web page that encourages people to make a donation, or serve at a shelter on the 25th of every month?

    It’s easy to complain against something – most of the world does it, so why should Christians be different?

    Look for ways to bring the message of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said it was at hand – do people around us experience the kingdom of heaven? If not, we should be far more grievous that it isn’t happening, rather than complain that stores are displaying Christmas items.

    Oh, and I buy Christmas presents all year long so that by the time advent begins, we focus on the meaning of Christmas and I’m already finished my shopping.

  12. Our church’s choir started practicing for their Christmas concert before the store’s had Christmas decorations up, so I’ve been hearing Christmas music for about a month already. The last thing I wast to do is walk into a retail store and hear more. And the best time to buy anything Christmasy is the week after Christmas. It’s hard to beat 75% off.

  13. Amen, amen, amen! I love the old Christmas carols, but by the time Christmas day actually rolls around I have heard them so many times that I am sick of them.

    And really, it’s always bothered me that we spend so much time preparing for Christmas but pretty much ignore the lead up to Easter (at least in the Protestant tradition). Even ignoring the commercial side of things, some churches have more than a month of Christmas sermons and Christmas carols–while Easter gets (maybe) Palm Sunday and Good Friday.

    I refuse to listen to Christmas music before December, and we don’t decorate until a few weeks before Christmas. I do tend to keep an eye out for gifts throughout the year–but just so that I don’t have to cram it into December.

  14. I love the anticipation, end of November. But by end of December, I’m rocking in a corner picking at dead needles on the floor. It is there I quote George Bernard Shaw, “A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.”

  15. I don’t keep Christmas shopping in a cage – I eliminated it altogether. After several years of trying, I finally convinced my elderly mother that we all don’t need to exchange gifts at Christmas, so we don’t. Instead, last year we pooled our “shopping” money and gave it to a struggling family with small children. We’ll do the same thing this year.

    I also gave up killing myself making dozens of Christmas cookies. And I no longer spend three days decorating the house. We didn’t even have a tree last year.

    The more traditions we dump, the better I feel. It leaves time for actually loving each other.

    I am free, indeed.

  16. Too much Christmas isn’t a good thing. No Thanksgiving is a bad thing. I think the “specialness” of the holiday (gag, I said it) season is diminished by SO MUCH OF IT. I’m an advent girl and a 12 days of Christmas girl. It’s been a family tradition and I find it suits me. :)

  17. I bought eggnog on Sunday cuz i LOVE eggnog. It’s not just for Christmas. I buy it as soon as it hits the shelf and beg the grocers to continue carrying into the Spring. They don’t listen. :( I would drink it in July if I could find it in July. Matt, don’t curdled my eggnog.

    I will comment on the rest of this post after Thanksgiving.

  18. Though I have to sheepishly admit that I’m guilty of it myself, the consumerism is still maddening. I love the fact that we have a whole holiday to remember one of the biggest moments of God’s salvation plan. But the distraction of the gifts, lights, music, food, and so on, is gigantic. I enjoy it, but…it shouldn’t cause me to forget about the One I love even more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  19. I actually wish I could buy eggnog year-round! I love that stuff! I have been known to be that crazy person buying eggnog as soon as it is available. I drink it pretty much right away.

    I am always looking for good deals on things I know people want/need. Black Friday two years ago was the first one in my soon to be 28 Black Fridays that I actually purchased something. Last Black Friday I did not have the money to buy anything. I either have everything before or soon after Black Friday, anyway.

  20. I honestly haven’t thought too much about buying Christmas gifts this year. The fewer gifts I have to buy the better. I hate the consumerism of Christmas. My siblings and I have skipped a gift exchange in lieu of donating to a charity. My husband and I aren’t exactly on the same page when it comes to gift-giving. I would rather give something that doesn’t cost much but is homemade or more meaningful. He just wants to get what the person wants. Psh.

    And, not to be a total jag, but are Christians *really* supposed to celebrate the birth of Christ? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to remember and be thankful that God sent His Son for us. But the Bible never suggests that we should make such a big deal about it.

  21. A few years ago, my husband & I went through a severe financial crisis. For a time we could barely afford groceries, let alone presents. When we stopped buying into all the holiday propaganda, we rediscovered the real meaning of Christmas. Now we can afford presents, but we choose not to spend money on gifts. Last year we used my bonus to visit my family across the country – it was our first Christmas with them. We also helped a family in need This year we plan to spend Christmas Eve with friends in Texas, where their church delivers presents throughout the community.
    I’m not telling you this to say we’re saints – just saying that when I stopped buying presents I rediscovered my love of Christmas. Gifts are great & I’m sure we’ll pick up that tradition again when we have children, but we enjoy using our finances to be with family & friends, & to help others in need. We have enough stuff anyway. :-)

  22. That’s the old “cage Christmas” spirit!

  23. I’ve already started buying presents for Christmas if I see good deals online, but I haven’t dared to look in the direction of Christmas sections that have popped up at Costco or Walmart, etc. Those giddy moments are saved until Thanksgiving+. So, I agree. Keep it in it’s Thanksgiving to New Years cage because it’s getting out of hand.

  24. I’m trying to picture what America would be like if we went bonkers over one of the “lesser” holidays.

    Ah, yes, celebrating Valentine’s Day as trick-or-treaters come by your door.

    Or getting ready for Mom’s special day as the new year rolls around.

    Or celebrating Flag Day when…whatever happens six months before Flag Day, whenever Flag Day even is…

  25. We are thinking of doing something extremely radical with the whole Christmas thang. But will wait to share further on a blog post.

  26. I know I’m coming late to this post, but I usually start shopping for my wife around the 22nd. Yeah, that’s how I roll.

  27. I buy gifts and ornaments all year (because I get them as souvenirs when I go places) but….I don’t know what I can do to help cage Christmas.

    I refuse to listen to the Christmas music before Black Friday. I change the channel when Christmas commercials are on before December. Can we start a letter writing campaign to tell stores we don’t like it?