Seasons greetings … happy holidays … It is likely you are reading this during the holiday season. Traditionally, the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is the holiday season. I’m not sure who decided this period of time deserves to be a season, but I’m requesting further debate ... and I am always on the side of an “event” being better than a “season.”
Let me illustrate. There is nothing better than a day of branding – the smell of burning hair as it tickles your nose, the chaotic symphony of hundreds of calves and cows mooing at the same time. And don’t forget the community involvement ensuring you have enough ropers and muggers. Yes, there is nothing better than a day of branding.
On the contrary, if you string together several weeks’ worth of branding, this fun event becomes a burden. Even the most avid branding aficionado has more fun on the first day than on the third week. Branding is fun. Branding season is not.
Similarly, I love a good high school rodeo. I am amazed by the skills kids can develop with a horse and a rope. A high school rodeo can be action-packed, exciting and full of drama. I love a high school rodeo. But once you string together two straight months of high school rodeos, the bloom is off the proverbial rose. High school rodeo is amazing. Rodeo season is considerably less amazing.
Almost universally, a season is less desirable than a single event. Everyone loves a summer day, but the third week of 90ºF weather makes you long for the chill of fall. And being in a northern state, we have an appreciation for the wonderland that is winter, but February finds us all longing for spring.
So, with this distinction between an event and a season, why would we expect the holiday season to be any different?
I am not a Scrooge. If you remember A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was unwilling to take a single day to celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, a little on Boxing Day and then back to work. But there are forces today extending Christmas as long as possible.
Let me give you an example. To peek behind the curtain and see how the Great and Powerful Oz writes his column, I am writing this holiday treatise in mid-October. It takes time to write, edit and design my words into the page, you see. Without snow on the ground or Christmas music on the radio, how could I possibly be in the holiday spirit? I simply go down to the nearest big-box store and sit in their Christmas section. The fluffy fake snow and fluorescent Santa Claus puts me in the holiday spirit. Christmas décor in the middle of October is exhibit “A” as proof in my case that the holidays have become a season.
I do understand why businesses gear up for Christmas, and I do not begrudge Christmas becoming too commercial. I have written a series of kid books (forgive the shameless plug) with which most of my sales occur in the months preceding Christmas. Retailers employ millions of our neighbors during Christmas every year, and it is the single-most productive time for the retail industry. Have you ever heard the pagans complain about how commercial Halloween has become or is that a complaint reserved for Christians during a time most likely to get people through the doors of a church?
No, my biggest problem with the holiday season is just that – it is a season just like any other.
At least once during the holiday season you will hear "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Twelve days may not even be a season, but even in this holiday classic, they literally run out of good gifts after one day. The song even slows down and emphasizes, “Five golden rings!” Beyond that, there is a week of semi-edible fowl and then five days of made-up gifts. Do you really think your “true love” will be impressed with a gift of “nine ladies dancing?” I think not, unless they are dancing with a vacuum cleaner and a mop.
And that brings me to my point. There are too many people today who will dive headlong into the first week of December with the zeal of a 40-year-old combine at the start of wheat harvest … only to be broken down in the second week. There are too many of us who take on the persona of Ebenezer Scrooge by the 20th of December, “I just want the holiday season to be over.”
And this is a shame because the best part of the holiday season comes late, not early. Christmas is a day of magic for every child and for everyone who can see the holiday through childlike eyes. Christmas embodies the joy, hope, peace and love promised through the birth of Christ. If Christmas is just another day in the long and drawn-out holiday season, I encourage you to take a break from the parties, parades, presents, crowds and bustle of the holiday season and recognize the importance of Christmas Day.
Seasons Greetings? Happy Holidays? No thanks, I’ll stick with “Merry Christmas.”