It happened slow, like that snail crawling from one side of my patio to the edge of my pool. I watched him for a while, not realizing the metaphor that was dragging before my eyes.
When I was a kid the holidays came. We ate turkey or ham (a canned one: especially if we were at my Grandma’s house). We opened gifts and sang Hanukkah songs, or Christmas carols. We watched Frosty the snowman, It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas. The older people drank spiked eggnog and ate rum balls, I may have snuck a couple. It was Hanukkah, it was Christmas, it was New Years Eve. It was over.
Now it starts while they are selling Halloween costumes. There are pre-lit Christmas trees in the store while you kid decides if he’d like to be Pokemon or that 32 bit Minecraft head. We buy pumpkin spice all-the-things all through November and once the turkey has been carved, people leave their dirty Thanksgiving dishes in the sink to shop for the best deals. The morning after black Friday the tree is anointed in all it’s glory, the lights are strung on the house and we are at 1.21 gigawatts of power for the whole month of December.
In comes the Elf on the Shelf, the Advent Calendars, the Mensch on the Bench, and the build up that is the Festival of Lights or the Birth of Christ is now at warp speed. It’s everywhere on social media, “Oh, I forgot to move the elf,” or “Look,did you see what my Mensch did? He’s in the hot tub with Barbie”. We aren’t trying to one-up you, we are trying to one-up ourselves. Bigger is better, even if cleaning up the Elf’s mess takes time away from all the things you like to do. We still do it. Every time your kids get together they have a holiday party: in school, in religious school, at sports. And parents are baking and frying and having to supply food for these get-together’s for the whole month of December.
We aren’t even keeping up with the Jones’ anymore. Wonder Woman couldn’t keep up with the Jones’. We’ve set the bar higher than it ever needed to be set, higher than anyone asked us to set it. NO ONE ASKED US TO MOVE THE BAR! And for what? The memories, the “OMG, I don’t want to be left out, have my kid feel like he got less, like I am less,” memories.
The problem with the happiest time of the year is that we’ve made it less happy time, dragged out over a longer period of time. Sure, the holidays still fall on the same times of the year, but after doing the Elf, the Mensch ,the advent, the kids forget about the holiday spirit and it’s now about all the things, only the things.
We raised the bar because we remember the holidays were so much fun as kids. My Grandma used to set up her tree on Christmas Eve. Not on December 1st. That adorable tree was put up on December 24th, the night of her marriage anniversary to my Grandfather, and It was the best memories of our lives!!!! Of. Our. Lives. And why? Because it was short and sweet and filled with family and friends. But now we’ve stretched that feeling into months of planning, months of running around like headless chickens, which has only given everyone involved an emptier feeling when it’s happening and a straight up “what now” feeling when it’s over.
Each gift needs to be over the top. What do you get for a 10-year-old who already has a laptop nicer than your own? Holiday meals must go beyond the amazing meal you had last year. My Grandma’s delicious canned ham has turned into a turducken overnight.
I’d like that ham back please. Grandma always put pineapple rings, cloves, and maraschino cherries on it just for me.
And I never felt empty.
I was always full.