Every year, about this time, it starts—a debate more heated and divisive than the presidential election, the legalization of gay marriage, and the Pumpkin Spice Latte, all rolled into one.
I’m speaking of the dispute over the early appearance of Christmas.
There are two factions that form around this conflict. There are those who cry out in horror at the idea that anyone could possibly be thinking about Christmas when “it’s not even Halloween yet, for God’s sake!” And then there are those who love the holidays and plan well in advance for them, giddily anticipating them for months.
For those who condemn the practice of planning for the holidays well in advance, I must ask—how exactly is it hurting you if I do it? So what if you’re buying candy corn while I’m deciding what my Christmas theme will be? Is it any of your business if you’re setting off fireworks and grilling hot dogs while I’m figuring out which weekend in December I’ll go get my tree? I do those things—and yes, I do them that early.
I have a full-time job and four kids, so I am a planner, and I like to make a big deal out of Christmas. Growing up, our holidays were the opposite of joyful—they may actually have sucked joy out of us. Sure, we had presents, and we trimmed the tree, but when it came to overall Yuletide festivities, my mom was a complete dud. She didn’t have much free time, and to be honest, she really didn’t care that much. So she did the bare minimum.
By contrast, my family not only gets presents and puts up a tree, but also makes cookies, transforms most of the house, hangs thousands of lights (we’re not quite to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation proportions, but they’re pretty bright), watches holiday movies, and goes to a display of dollhouses and trains on exhibit every year at a historic house near us. We own enough seasonal movies that, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can watch a movie every single night without repeating one. Decorating the house takes the better part of two weekends.
I shop for presents all year long. It helps defray costs, so I’m not shelling out hundreds of dollars in December, and I can focus on getting things that people will really like. I don’t end up limited to what I can snatch up on a frenzied trip to the mall on December 15th with a budget of four dollars per person. I can really think about what the recipients will want, as opposed to what’s within arm’s reach when I think, “Oh God—I have to buy something for Uncle Mike!”
Why doesn’t anyone ever say: “You’re planning a vacation for August? But it’s only February!” It’s not really that different, people. While you may not have to make hotel reservations for Christmas, you’re still talking about a lot of moving parts. And isn’t the intent the same? To spend time with family, enjoy each other, and make memories?
Understand, I am not Buddy the Elf. There are things about Christmas that I wish I could avoid, like the Elf on the Shelf. Ours is lazy, and pathetically uncreative. About all he does is move around the house. Some nights he eats our Christmas cookies (I get hungry). Also dreaded are the Christmas “talking dog” movies, like Santa Buddies. In those movies, the dog-to-human time ratio is backwards—an hour in a talking dog movie is seven years to a person. Maybe it just feels that way.
Still, I want my children to feel like the holidays are important, and that they matter because they’re time we spend together and have fun. No, we don’t put up decorations until after Thanksgiving—there’s something to be said for preserving the novelty—but nonetheless, I think about Christmas all year. I buy presents when we’re on vacation, I make notes about fun decorating ideas I think of, and I jot down new cookie recipes.
I enjoy doing all this. I’m not doing it out of a sense of duty. I’m doing it because I want my kids to have fun memories and associate the holidays with good times. Some people don’t enjoy all-year Christmas planning, and those people shouldn’t do it. But they shouldn’t shame people who do. I refuse to feel bad for wanting to make the most of a season that’s about giving and making others happy.