I’ll start by making a confession: until the day after Thanksgiving, I give the Grinch a run for his money.
We have a pretty hard and fast rule that there are no lights, no decorations and certainly no music for Christmas before Thanksgiving. After all, most stations have decided to cut out the religious themed holiday songs as it is, which means the playlists are about 50% of what they used to be.
Last Christmas, if I had to hear George Michael sing “Last Christmas” one more time I think I would have decided to skip this one.
I’m not against celebrating, I just don’t want to skip the chance to appropriately carve a turkey and let Thanksgiving have its day. It seems only fair to give a measure of respect to that day and not to skip right over it as most retail outlets do. I guess there isn’t a lot in turkey merchandise to sell!
Most of our neighbors seem to follow the same, respectful pattern. The weekend after Thanksgiving on our block is marked by men and women pretending they are handy, hanging way too many lights, and making far too many trips to Home Depot.
But, not this year.
Have you noticed lights in trees already? Have you found that one or more of your radio stations have switched over to Christmas music 24/7 already? I noticed that one of my preset FM stations that usually waits until December switched to holiday tunes just a few days ago.
Here’s a second confession: I have been leaving my radio on that very station and just last night was singing along about “olden days, and happy golden days” with Johnny Mathis.
Just like everything else in 2020, this year is different.
I find myself ready to jumpstart the holiday season. And I think I’m not alone. Have you found yourself thinking about December a little sooner than normal? There’s a hope deficit in our society, and every year Christmas – like clockwork – gives us our dose.
I’m sure some of it this year is a longing to see family I haven’t seen in a long time. Some of it is rooted in a need to return to familiar patterns and some degree of normalcy. But I believe that the bulk of why people “need a little Christmas,” even in early November, is the heart of the reason for the season.
Whatever you celebrate in December, the root is likely common to others: we are all looking for hope.
Why have holidays when it’s darkest? That’s when we need more hope.
Kwanzaa celebrates first fruits of the harvest, and the hope that bounty brings. Hanukkah celebrates unforeseen victory in the face of horrible odds – again a celebration of hope. And Christmas? Well Christmas celebrates the hope that life will outlive death and that light can shine in the darkness – the thrill of hope that will prevail in the end.
It’s no mistake that all of these holidays fall around the winter solstice, literally the darkest time of the year. They were all placed there on purpose (spoiler alert! Jesus was almost certainly NOT born in December).
Why have holidays when it’s darkest?
That’s when we need more hope. As a runner, the solstice is one of my favorite days of the year, because from that day forward, there’s always a little more light to work with. Oh how we need that in our world right now!
As the pandemic surges yet again and we face whatever wave we are on, I find myself feeling like I’m in the movie “Groundhog Day,” and as if we are in the darkest time of 2020 yet. There just seems no escaping the pervasive march of COVID-19 through the world.
A ray of hope is precisely what the world is longing for right now. Last week, just a positive mention of a vaccine sent the U.S. stock markets to set some of their highest intraday records. One small ray of hope, and we were ready to believe!
Certainly, it’s no time to let down our guard. I’m masked up, socially distanced and will keep on fighting the virus as I can until we actually have a vaccine.
But right alongside that fight, I’m keeping my radio tuned to the Christmas station. I think you might find some comfort there as well.
My bet is: the world is ready for a change of movies. Out with “Groundhog Day” and in with “Miracle on 34th Street.”
Merry Christmas to you all, even though it's November.