Once and for all, someone … okay me … needs to answer the question: What comes first, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
What Comes First?
Yes, if we list the two holidays in ABC order, Christmas comes first. But if we look at the calendar, Christmas doesn’t. Aside from chronology, several excellent reasons exist to remind us (and retailers) that the Christmas caboose belongs at the end of the annual holiday train.
When we begin hyping Christmas before Thanksgiving (or, God forbid, Halloween), we gyp ourselves of the thoughtful, mindful period during which we can look back over the previous months and take stock. What went well? What didn’t go as planned? What will we do differently in the future? What will we avoid doing? And, most importantly, what are we grateful for?
When we allow negative thoughts to sour our souls and dispositions to the point that we need a chubby guy in a red suit with a herd of caribou to cheer us up, something is definitely wrong. We dilute the spirit of what Christmas is truly about by starting early. Then there’s the issue of what Christmas means to Christians, which I am. That’s a consideration for me. But, because you may not be Christian, I won’t go there.
I think we use the presents and other Ho-Ho-Ho stuff to extend the Christmas season, not to emphasize the specialness of it. And by extending Christmas at the front end, the Thanksgiving season has been effectively reduced to a single day (or, for some of us, a four-day weekend).
In the fall, I appreciate the way the world slows down and warms up. It’s the autumn season that truly celebrates warmth, not the summer. Summer is about fire and sparkle. Autumn is about slowing down and wringing every last drop out of the world. We send the clock backward so we can enjoy one more hour of daylight each day. Instead of tossing steaks and burgers on the grill on Sunday afternoons, we hunker down and roast hams or turkeys. We start using our fireplaces for their intended purpose rather than just for display.
Both my parents have passed, and I miss them just as much as I’m thankful for them. That’s probably why Thanksgiving is so important to me. In fact, when I moved into their home and placed my stamp on it, I chose my mother’s favorite room for my office. After the remodel, the dining room’s chandelier is absent, as are the big family table and the china teacup collection. But every day–especially in November (which was also Mom’s birthday month)–this room echoes with the memories of Dad’s homemade turkey gravy, Mom’s store-bought pumpkin pie, and arguing over who would sit at the kid’s table in the kitchen instead of with the grownups in the dining room.
I understand the appeal of the Christmas season. For example, my nephew’s wife is a big fan of Christmas–she’d celebrate it all year if she could. Her philosophy is that the season makes her happy and there’s nothing wrong with doing what makes you, and your family, happy. She loves the colorful lights and decorations, the way her kids get excited at the prospect of family traditions and get-togethers, and the way other people are much more friendly and accommodating at this time of year. So, yes, I get her perspective, too. I’m all for doing what makes you happy.
So, I’ve talked myself in a complete circle. What was the question again?
What comes first, Christmas or Thanksgiving?
I guess the chronological date, the looking back before we can move forward, and the spirit that lives inside us is what comes first. Maybe I, in my own way, begin celebrating the true spirit of Christmas in November … and just call it Thanksgiving.