Yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted this question: Am I the only one not feeling the holiday spirit? I left a witty, social network kind of reply, but I’ve been thinking about it since then. Am I feeing the holiday spirit? My first question is which holiday are we talking about? My next question is what does the holiday spirit feel like?
At the risk of sounding as old as I am, when I was a kid “The Holidays” were not lumped together in a big four-month chunk that started at the end of August. Holiday spirit was not one big adrenaline rush that began in September and continued to grow, fed by advertising and excess, until it exploded in a frenzy of ripped wrapping paper and tangled ribbons on December 25. The holiday spirit always included excitement and anticipation, but it came in smaller doses and was tailored for each holiday.
First there was Labor Day that signaled the end of summer. There was excitement about one last cookout or picnic before school started. Even the reluctance to head back to the classroom was tempered with the anticipation of showing off new clothes and seeing friends again. Halloween came next. It wasn’t so much a holiday as an excuse to be creative while carving a pumpkins or putting together cute costumes to wear trick-or-treating or to a party. Several weeks later the family got together for Thanksgiving. Granny cooked a huge turkey with a dishpan full of dressing, and all the aunts pulled out the “famous” recipes they only made once or twice a year. We hugged and kissed a lot and gathered around the table and talked about what we were thankful for while we ate. For the next few weeks we stayed busy addressing cards, putting up a tree, shopping, wrapping, and cooking as the spirit of anticipation built to the climax of Christmas. After the presents were opened and the decorations were taken down, we celebrated the new year, not so much as a return to the sanity of normal life after a four-month orgy of excess but as a jumping off point for twelve months of unlimited possibilities.
Now Christmas displays appear alongside back-to-school displays, and if marketing department were smart, they’d put big shelves of headache remedies and anti-anxiety meds on adjoining aisles. My Sunday school teacher says of the current debt crisis many of us are experiencing, We spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like. That becomes even truer during the holidays when we are bombarded with extravagant advertising that fills us all with unrealistic expectations, both of ourselves and others.
So, back to the questions: am I feeling the holiday spirit?
Labor Day got lost in the excitement of another holiday this year. My Mom turned 90 on September 3, the Saturday before Labor Day. We drove to Conway, AR and spent the weekend celebrating. We had a big family dinner Friday night and a party Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning we went to church together and went out to lunch before David and I headed back home. On Monday, the actual holiday, we were too tired to even consider a cookout or picnic, and after rushing in and out of stores for last minute party items, Labor Day sales weren’t appealing. But as I remembered the bright smiles of Mom and her sisters and the warm hugs of friends and family, it sure felt like a holiday.
Halloween was a non-event at our house. We live so far off the beaten path that the only people who drive by are the other half dozen families that live on our circle, so there didn’t seem to be much point in putting out decorations. I bought a bag of candy, just in case, and I even left the porch light on, but we didn’t have even one ghost or goblin. But we did attend a party the week before. Our church has AWANA on Wednesday nights. AWANA is a program for kids where they play games, sing songs, do crafts, and learn Bible verses. David and I participate as listeners, those brave adults who sit with 2 or 3 kids and listen to them recite what they’ve learned. The Wednesday before Halloween, volunteers brought candy, cookies, and punch, and during playtime, we had a party. Ours is the only church in the area offering the program, so kids come from all over to participate. AWANA nights are pretty raucous anyway, but when the kids are ramped up on sugar, it’s absolutely mind boggling. As I watched the big smiles and listened to the squeals of laughter, I’m pretty sure I felt some holiday spirit.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but it feels like it started a week or two ago. Last Thursday at the Senior Center we had a Thanksgiving lunch with turkey and dressing and desserts brought by anybody who wanted to. We had a full house, and the staff decorated the tables so everything looked festive. It was like a big family dinner as we shared memories and holiday plans and talked about what we were thankful for. Saturday morning David and I spent the morning packing and delivering Thanksgiving food boxes. As if that wasn’t enough of a blessing, we attended a community-wide Thanksgiving service Sunday evening. The service itself was uplifting, but the time of fellowship afterward was even better. Over coffee and cookies, David and I visited with friends from our church and from the Senior Center, and David reconnected with a high school friend he hadn’t seen in more years than he could remember. And it’s not over yet. Tomorrow we’re going to my aunt’s about 20 miles from here to share the traditional meal with her and her extended family. Granny won’t be there with her hands buried in a dishpan full of dressing, and several others like my own Dad will be missing this year, but I’m looking forward to lots of hugs, sharing, and good food. I think I’m really feeling the Thanksgiving spirit.
The Christmas spirit will have to wait its turn, but it’s creeping into the edges of my consciousness. I haven’t done any shopping yet, but I have ideas of what I’m getting the grandkids, the most important ones on my list. I haven’t done any decorating and may not since we probably won’t spend Christmas at home. But I noticed yesterday that someone had put up a Nativity scene and a Santa and sleigh in Emory City Park. Today as we passed the park, there was a man in a cherry picker putting lights on the trees. I’m looking forward to seeing the results, and I felt a little bit of Christmas spirit overlapping my Thanksgiving exuberance. I’m looking forward to seeing my brother and sister-in-law and especially my mom. It’s been too long since I saw her sweet face and gave her a hug. I’m looking forward to a candlelight Christmas Eve service and to saying Happy Birthday, Jesus on Christmas morning. I can’t say I’m really feeling it yet, but the spark is there. When the time comes, I’m sure I’ll feel the Christmas spirit as surely as I’ve felt the other holiday spirits.
In the meantime, I’m thankful for all of you who read my musings and share your thoughts from time to time. In the spirit of the season, Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.