I call it “Christmas creep.” Holiday decorations and television ads began to appear around the same time as Halloween costumes and candy corn. Some local radio stations have been in holiday music format since early November. Newspaper inserts began advertising holiday sales on Election Day.
This year, I saw homes and offices with lights, wreaths and trees in mid-November. Glossy Christmas catalogs arrived by Veterans Day. And well before Thanksgiving, shopping channels were in full holiday mode, with effervescent hosts dressed in their holiday finest presenting their wares on professionally decorated sets.
I love Christmas and all of its goodwill, tinsel and twinkle. But I try hard not to succumb to the creep bandwagon, even though each year the pressure to rush the season intensifies. Thankfully, it wasn’t always like this.
This is how I remember it: Thanksgiving was its own special holiday. There was no blurring of the lines, and certainly no shopping or working except for those deemed essential. It was all about family, friends, football and food.
As little kids, we knew that Christmas was right around the corner, however, there were no signs of the Yule season. We were antsy with anticipation, and that made it all the more fun.
On the day after Thanksgiving, it was like the world flipped a giant Yuletide switch. It was suddenly the most wonderful time of the year. Bing, Burt, Rosemary, Doris and Johnny were shaking jingle bells and singing carols to the treetops. Fluffy snowflakes were falling as if I woke up in a snow globe. Beautiful blue bulbs lit up our shrubs, and the life-sized manger scene displayed on our front yard and my dad’s huge homemade star shone bright from the garage peak for all of North Boston to admire.
The Village of Hamburg was also decked out. Santa, Mrs. Claus and their log cabin arrived from the North Pole overnight and settled in their spot in the plaza parking lot. The giant Advent calendar across the street from the Palace Theater was ready to count down to Christmas, and wreaths hung from the wrought-iron light posts. The Hamburg Holiday Parade queued up to entertain the residents. And in downtown Buffalo, the iconic AM&A’s animated window displays began to delight shoppers. The transition was seemingly instant. Through a child’s eyes and imagination, I was convinced Santa’s elves were responsible. It was magical.
Then the Sunday circulars arrived. While still in our flannel pajamas, we fought for space on the floor and circled the toys we wanted to list in our letters to Santa. Later that evening, we’d pack into our old woody station wagon and drive through the neighborhoods, admiring the lights and blow mold figurines. But, of course, our house was always the best and brightest.
I know it’s cliche to say that those were the good old days. I certainly found new ways to make my daughter’s Christmases special. We only know what we know, and generations tend to create their own customs. Many villages continue some of those cherished traditions. For me, it’s more than the memories. It’s the sheer overnight transformation to the Christmas season that’s missing now, yet etched forever in my heart and mind.
Commercialism has taken a big hold on Christmas. It’s creeping in earlier and we can’t stop it. This makes me wish the children of today could experience the fun, magic and awe of “flipping the switch” to Christmas wonderland the way we did. Just once.