Written by Phil Guarnieri Thursday, 28 November 2013 00:00
Saint Paul had it right in Ecclesiastes: There is a season for everything. This timeless sentiment has nurtured and salted my objection to what appears to me an amalgamation of America’s most cherished festivals and holidays. I don’t want to sound peevish about this, cross or just touchy about things that bring people joy and happiness. But why is it that people can’t celebrate the holidays in their proper and sequential order?
Is it necessary for us to hear “Jingle Bells” two weeks or more before Thanksgiving? It is not that I don’t adore Christmas music; I just don’t want to listen to it when I’m at the beach on a hot, summer afternoon. Orson Welles, in another context, once pitched a commercial saying, in a way only Orson Welles could, “That we will sell no wine before its time.” The holiday season, just like good wine, should observe a timetable that will bring out the full flavor of its effervescence.
Abiding by this protocol is a matter of aesthetics and tastefulness and should not really be such a self-denying proposition. As I observe the cosmogony of festive occasions that appear in the months of October, November and December, it is clear that they are not separated by such orbital distances that we must celebrate them either prematurely or concurrently, as is now happening with Thanksgiving and Christmas, or risk missing them altogether. No, Halloween,
Thanksgiving and Christmas can be spaced apart at decent intervals and still allow us to fully savor, perhaps even more so, their respective blessings and convivial diversions. To do otherwise, given history and tradition, is an ill-mannered cultural usurpation.
It must be counted as one of the paradoxes of human nature that while we are always complaining about the winged bird of time, the inexorable swiftness of the days, we are often impatient with how slow the day is moving. These two opposing feelings struggling to be paramount is what the philosophers call “cognitive dissonance” and is no doubt the cause of these storms of bewilderment and anxiety that often afflict us as we scramble amid the daily rush and tumult. Forbearance has long since ceased to be a virtue these days; indeed the modern psychosis of instant gratification is perhaps the most conspicuous staple of our self-indulgent age. We have to possess things instantaneously as evidenced by the insanity that breaks out on those long, winding, serpentine waiting lines that materialize whenever Apple introduces a new iPhone.
There are, of course, other factors that have invited this irrepressible hastiness into our lives. When I was a child, Halloween was a rather minor event, not exactly trivial by any means, but nothing like the gargantuan revelry it has morphed into. One no longer needs to rummage through the dark recesses of the imagination to conjure up images of ghosts, goblins and headless zombies; one only needs to gaze out on the neighbor’s front lawn to see a menagerie of horrors staring back at you.
As for myself, I’ve always been somewhat subdued about Halloween; the charm of trick or treating exhausted itself by the ripe old age of 10 and this weariness has lingered on, which may account for the singular lighted pumpkin that graced my real estate this past October 31. This is not a criticism of the season’s more ostentatious displays, since some very estimable people revel in the merriment of the macabre. It is only to underscore that the copious exuberance for Halloween combined with the onset of an ever earlier Christmas has led to an attenuation of Thanksgiving, perhaps the most quintessential of American holidays.
So the question is not, at least for me, a matter of ostentatiousness but of seasonal apportionment, whereupon one festival holiday does not rudely elbow out the other. One can be as evangelical as they like in promoting their favorite holiday provided one is respectful of the chronological boundaries of the others. Traditionally, my place of residence is inclined to cultivate the accoutrements of the Christmas season, when our home becomes delightfully transfigured in the light and color of the season, although we refrain from decorating until after Thanksgiving and obsequiously relinquish the furnishings of the season by sunset of January 6, Little Christmas. The sleds, the bells, and the crystalline lights that twinkle amid the cold and sometimes frosty nights are an indelible part of the joyousness of the season. There is always a touch of sadness in extinguishing those lights; as if Santa Claus had taken a razor to his cherubic, red cheeks and decided to go beardless.
The trappings of Halloween and Thanksgiving barely survive a day longer for us as we make room for the next fete. But this is never accompanied by sadness, because the season of peace and goodwill beckons around the corner. So this is by no means a remonstrance of overdoing any particular holiday, but an invitation to live in the moment and to enjoy the season that is with us rather than hurriedly revving up our engines for the next.
I must, however, confess that despite all of my heartfelt implorations to my beloved readers this last paragraph, alas, had to be quickly revised when I discovered that my dear wife, 10 days before Thanksgiving, had unbeknownst to me, and to my utter disbelief, adorned our hedges with large, red Christmas bows serving as a rather pointed repudiation of everything that I just wrote. I suppose that before I began pontificating on the impulsiveness of the world, I should have taken the temperature of hearth and kin. Maybe I should have just said, “To each his own” and left it at that.