Thursday afternoon I posted a “Bah Humbug” Facebook comment about a local radio station that has changed its format to all Christmas music for the duration. To say that my brother loves Christmas would be a huge understatement. In fact, he makes the Ghost of Christmas Present look like Scrooge, and he took exception to my comment and those of some of my friends. This was his last entry: Can anybody explain to my simple mind the abject travesty of playing Christmas music and putting up lights in the first half of November? I’m really having a hard time with all this negativity!
I started to respond, but realized it was going to involve more typing than I wanted to do on my phone, so I shifted into blogger mode and started thinking in terms of a post. After mulling through a few thoughts that seemed familiar, I realized that I wrote how I feel about the holidays in 2011. It was well received, so I posted it again last year. Now, for what is becoming a Life After Caregiving tradition, here’s the 3rd annual posting of “Feeling the Holiday Spirit.”
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 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 included excitement and anticipation, but it came in smaller doses and was tailored for each holiday.
First, Labor Day signaled the end of summer with one last cookout before school started. Even the reluctance to head back to the classroom was tempered with the anticipation of wearing new clothes and seeing friends again. Halloween came next. It wasn’t as much a holiday as an excuse to create unique jack-o-lanterns and cute costumes. 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 recipes they only made once or twice a year. We hugged a lot and recounted our blessings while we ate. For the next few weeks we addressed cards, put up a tree, caroled, shopped, wrapped, and cooked 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 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 beside 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.
So, am I feeling the holiday spirit this year? Labor Day got lost in the excitement of another special event. 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 and lunch before David and I headed home. On Monday we were too tired to even consider a cookout, and after shopping for last minute party items all weekend, 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. I’ve never decorate for Halloween, and we live so far off the beaten path that we didn’t have a single ghost or goblin ring the doorbell, 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 are listeners, 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. AWANA attracts kids from all over the county, so Wednesday nights are pretty raucous, and when sugary treats are added to the mix, it’s absolutely mind boggling. But when I saw the huge smiles and heard 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 sumptuous Thanksgiving lunch with festive decorations and a full house. 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 helped pack and deliver Thanksgiving food boxes, and Sunday evening we attended a community-wide Thanksgiving service. The service itself was uplifting, but afterward the time of fellowship with friends over cookies and coffee was even better. And it’s not over yet. Tomorrow we’re having a traditional Thanksgiving meal with my aunt and her extended family. Granny won’t be there with her hands buried in a dishpan full of dressing, 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 there was a man in a cherry picker putting lights on the trees in the park. I’m looking forward to seeing the results, and I felt a little bit of Christmas spirit overlapping my Thanksgiving exuberance. I’m also looking forward to seeing my brother and sister-in-law and especially Mom. 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.