Okay, I confess. I am a sucker for those “top ten” articles. I can rarely pass up the chance to read the top ten things I didn’t know about Thanksgiving or the top ten ways to relieve holiday stress, or the top ten strangest holiday traditions. As soon as I read those words, “The Top Ten…” I am clicking on that link, regardless of what the top ten things turn out to be.
It’s probably a sickness.
And as I sat here on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning, I knew in the deepest marrow of my bones I needed to write my own top ten list. I took Charlie for his morning constitutional, and I pondered on a theme. What would I write about? Top ten things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving? That’s a great reflective practice, and I should write that list. It is always good to be reminded of our blessings. But eh. Next time. Top ten things I want to focus on this holiday season? Good. That will get me ready for New Year’s resolutions. But eh. I can work on that at New Year’s resolutions time. No need to get a jump on it.
And then I started thinking about the things I both love and hate about the holiday season. Bam goes the anvil! Ten random thoughts about the holidays. Yep. Perfect.
- Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful.
When I decided to forego the Top Ten Things I am Grateful for this Thanksgiving list, I didn’t toss it because I don’t want to reflect, or I don’t know what I am thankful for. If anything, I have spent more time focusing on my blessings this past month than I have during my previous 32 holiday seasons, and I am a big supporter of using Thanksgiving as an opportunity to do that. Reflect. Remember. And be thankful. Instead, I set it aside because I do know what I’m thankful for. And I have made it my holiday season mission to remember those things each and every day. So each morning, as I watch the sun come up, I think about my life, and the great things that are part of it. And I am thankful.
- A Christmas Story is the best holiday movie. Ever. Followed very closely by Home for the Holidays.
Ralphie (as portrayed by the adorable Peter Billingsley) in a pink bunny costume? Larson Family patriarch, Henry (played by the fabulous Charles Durning) muttering, “I can’t wait for g—–n Christmas” after he has to turn the hose on his son, Tommy (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his son-in-law, Walter (Steve Guttenberg) when the two get in a fight on the front lawn on Thanksgiving Day? If those don’t spread holiday cheer, go watch The Shining.
- All the giving is FAB. Can we continue it throughout the year?
It’s one of my favorite things about the holidays. I love that opportunities to give back are everywhere – food drives, toy drives, clothing drives. My own apartment complex is holding a pet toy drive. And I love that people jump on these drives like a cat on a ball of yarn. I once tried to drop a toy off at a local fire station, and the guys told me they had too many toys! That’s a problem I can live with, for sure. What I ask instead is why we can’t continue this “spirit of giving” through the rest of the year? We all know the homeless aren’t just homeless at the holidays. The hungry aren’t just hungry at the holidays. The less fortunate don’t just need help with new toys and clothes at the holidays. So why do we flood the charities throughout the month of December but not in March? Or June? Or even October?
I admit I can work on this too, so note to self: 2015 Resolution #27 = donate to a charity at least once a month.
- The giant menorahs Jews place on the top of their cars are, in a word, awesome.
This may just be an LA thing since I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but yeah. Giant menorahs. On the top of the car. And they light up! One candle at a time for each day of Hanukkah. Can we say amazing? Every anti-Semite in the history of anti-Semitism is turning over in their grave right now. Rightfully so.
- Every year, Black Friday makes less and less sense.
And here’s why: A) retailers offer deals online, which often start before Black Friday. Jo-Ann’s, for example, sent me a text message (yes, an actual text) stating their Black Friday deals started yesterday. B) Retailers offer deals online, so why do people camp out in front of the stores? Buy a 2,000-inch flat screen TV at BestBuy.com, folks. And then you can sit on your couch and sleep in your bed rather than lying flat on the sidewalk in freezing weather. You know, unless you love doing that. Sleeping outside in freezing weather, I mean. C) Are the deals really worth camping out in front of the store for 2 weeks, anyway? I know it’s a chance to get a 2,000-inch flat screen for $200, and I’m a wuss when it comes to sleeping outside in sub-zero temps, but even if they were giving those TVs away for free, I wouldn’t camp out in front of a store for one. There is no single object that is worth that to me.
- Don’t get me wrong; I love the holiday season.
I promise I am not one of those Ebenezer’s who complains about all the craziness of the holidays. In fact, the holiday season is my favorite time of year, and my favorite day of the year is Christmas Eve. I love the lights, the decorations, the carols (yes, I love Christmas carols), the food (naturally), and being with my family. Christmas Eve has always been my favorite day because, when I was a kid, it was the day we could keep the lights on the Christmas tree on all day long, and it was the day we could listen to Christmas carols all day long. We also baked Christmas cookies, and we ate my dad’s homemade lasagna for dinner. We lit candles; we put out luminarias (shout out to my New Mexico heritage) after the sun went down; we turned off all the house lights except for the tree; and we watched all those fun holiday specials on TV. It was a day of magic. And Christmas Day, though exciting since Santa was always super generous in my house, was always a let-down because that blissful magic of Christmas Eve was over. So, for all the craziness that is the holidays, and my cynicism towards certain traditions, I am like a giddy 6-year-old as soon as the first twinkle lights turn on and the first bars of White Christmas are heard on the radio.
- Rather than complaining about the “war on Christmas,” just go celebrate the damn holidays.
Once Thanksgiving is ensconced fully behind us, it will start: the rumblings about a war on Christmas. I don’t know if this is a new thing, or I only recently picked up on it, but I can’t think of much that is more ludicrous than this idea there is a movement to remove all the Christianity associated with Christmas. First off, where have these warriors for Christ’s Christmas been? Christmas hasn’t been a fully Christian holiday since 1902 and the introduction of the teddy bear! But, yes, there have been movements to use caution when displaying religious iconography associated with the Christmas holiday because finally (FINALLY!) Christians cannot and should not control public display of religious symbolism. There are other religions practiced in this great nation of ours, and if they cannot display their icons or religious symbols in public spaces for their holy days, then no, Christians should not be allowed to do so either.
All that said, this is public display we are talking about, not private homes or places associated with the religion in question. Nothing is stopping any Christian from putting a nativity scene out in their living room or a church to put one in the sacristy. But no, a nativity scene should not be on display in the mall. Unless, unless, unless all other religions are allowed to put their symbols on display in the mall too.
Anyway, to those who believe the “Christ” in “Christmas” is being taken away, I have two things to say: 1) considering the appearance of Santa Claus as a fat and jolly elf delivering presents to children around the world dates as far back as 1823, you’re officially 191 years late for the de-Christianizing of Christmas, and 2) nothing is stopping you from celebrating the holiday anyway you want. So go celebrate it.
- I love holiday trivia.
I’m a history buff, which can translate into useless trivia buff. So yeah, I know the modern interpretation of Santa Claus first appeared in a poem written in 1823. I also know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer dates from 1939, and started as a booklet and toy a Montgomery Ward employee developed to promote the store. He then became a worldwide phenomenon when Gene Autry recorded the eponymous song in 1949. Furthermore, Santa’s reindeer are technically female since male reindeer shed their antlers in late fall / early winter and females don’t shed theirs until the spring.
And let’s not forget teddy bears. Named after President Teddy Roosevelt when a story that he refused to kill a bear cub caught for him by some fellow hunters became a national sensation. A couple that owned a toy store put together a fabric bear, called it “Teddy’s Bear,” and displayed it in their shop window to honor the President’s sportsmanship (Roosevelt felt killing a bear that had been caught was very unsportsmanlike). People became interested in the fabric bear, so the toy store started making copies and selling them.
- Buying gifts for my nephew, which will annoy my sister, is sweeter than Christmas cookies.
I adore my nephew. Absolutely and totally adore him. I am going to spoil that kid rotten and love every minute that I’m doing it. And I am going to buy him anything he wants for gift-giving occasions, especially if something he wants is a gizmo that will annoy his mother. I love my sister to the end of the world and back again, but there is a perverse pleasure in watching my nephew annoy her. I admit it. I find it quite humorous when she drops her face down into her hands because he is up to something. So yeah, we bought him that fire truck that wails like a dying cat and honks and flashes and squeals. And we bought extra batteries to go with it.
- The holiday season, like everything else, is all in how you perceive it. Love it? Hate it? Reflect on it? That is your choice.
Nothing that happens during the holiday season can make you feel a certain way about it. You make the choice about how you feel. I make my choice. And I’m still not camping outside for a 2,000-inch flat screen TV.
Happy Thanksgiving all!