November 26, 2013


I used to be one of those people, too.

And I'm going to throw out a random guessI mean, uh, a really accurate and informed statisticthat at least 87.24% of you are one of those people.

You know the ones.

They are always bemoaning on Facebook that radio stations have started playing Christmas songs in early November. They'll complain to anyone who will listen about how Wal-Mart has prematurely started selling tinsel at the front of the store. Don't even get them started on the TV commercials! Filled with righteous indignation, these people demand that holiday cheer be like a good little boy and eat his Thanksgiving vegetables first. Speaking of Thanksgiving, we haven't even celebrated it yet! they protest.

I know the signs because I have been there. I, too, used to wait until the glory of the Friday-after to indulge in my holiday music of choice. (We won't talk about how, for most of my teenage years, that may or may not have been 'N Sync's Christmas album.) In that moment, I'd feel as though I were winning some sort of exquisite prize for holding out until "the time was right," like a virtuous bride on her wedding night. I wouldn't dream of playing those cheery songs about snow and caroling and peace and joy and love any earlier because... well, Christmas has to just calm down and and wait its turn! Right?

Don't believe me? I totally made this #holidayproblems meme last year.

C'mon, guys. This shtick is getting old. When we do this, we aren't protecting the sanctity of Christmas. We are just being Grinches. (And, for those of you paying close attention, that means you're breaking your own rules by being a Christmas Grinch before Christmas is "supposed to be" underway... I digress.) You're outta your gourd! (See that? I just made a Thanksgiving pun.) 

Don't get me wrong, I agree that it's obnoxious to see holiday commercialism crop up months in advance. But at this point, we are well into November and I am still seeing the debates raging on my Facebook newsfeed. Folks, there is no need for this. First of all, as a friend of mine pointed out, Thanksgiving is on the latest possible day it can be this year. There are other years when pulling out the Christmas music on, say, the 25th would be absolutely legitimate by the naysayers' standards. So surely you can't blame those of us whose hearts are getting ahead of us. A month is barely enough time to properly celebrate, especially for those working or in school (which is mostly everyone). And lest we forget, we're celebrating something of the utmost importance—something that has no temporal bounds. My Dad used to request that our church congregation sing "Joy to the World" even in the summer months. He did that at least once, anyway, and it left an impression on me. It wasn't a gimmicky "Christmas in July" stunt; it was an earnest reminder that we always have joy in the world because of the Savior. There is no way to start that celebration too early.

I got to thinking about this for a few reasons. First of all, the Swedes don't observe Thanksgiving, so they don't have that marker as to when it becomes "appropriate" to move onto Christmas. I'm guessing this makes some of them more liberal in their standards ("Pull out the Bing Crosby jams in October for all I care!"), while others may wait a bit longer, thinking December is a good signal that the time has come. More than that, I have spent a lot of time explaining Thanksgiving to my Swedish friends and defending its significance both as a tradition and as something extremely meaningful to many Americans. Maybe that's when it began to occur to me that Thanksgiving actually creates an even greater incentive to start my celebration as soon as possible. To me, Thanksgiving and Christmas are more or less inseparable. It's hard for me to have one without the other.

November 2006. That was the one and only year up until now that I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, and I remember feeling a more than a bit traumatized. I know I cried that day. It's hard to say if I'll cry again this year. Not ruling it out. I'll admit it has been harder for me to feel genuine gratitude lately. I know I'm in a beautiful place. I know my family is safe and sound for now, and perhaps that should be enough. But I have had some recent disappointments. I have felt lonely. I have wondered when I'll feel like myself again. I have been longing for the warmth of my childhood home. It's harder than I thought it would be to be far away.

In the depth of my despair (i.e. yesterday), I got a little nudge from a friend to indulge in listening to a playlist of mine on Spotify aptly entitled "The Best Christmas Ever." But but but but but. Thanksgiving! I thought. I have to wait! Just a few more days... 

Somethingprobably a sugar plum fairytold me to ignore the part of me that's so devoted to delaying my Christmas cheer. And you know what? I pressed "play." And Ella Fitzgerald started singing to me about sleigh rides, Frank Sinatra about jingle bells. And I lit a bunch of holiday candles around my room. And I swear on Santa's beard that I am not exaggerating when I say: in that moment, I felt happier than I have in a while. And grateful.

I don't think Thanksgiving would be nearly as meaningful to me if we celebrated it in March or May or August. I think it's amazing that it takes place just as we are ushering in the Christmas season. And if the two happen to overlap a little, all the better. Maybe Thanksgiving is just what we need to strengthen our resolve to be grateful before we all turn to a celebration of life and love and grace, the free gifts we've all been given.

It's okay if you still want to wait until Friday before letting some crooner tell you that Santa Claus is coming to town. But don't be a Scrooge if the rest of us are a bit more eager. We're not forgetting Thanksgiving. We're probably just trying to grow our hearts a couple sizes in anticipation of all that is to come.

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