Liz Farrell

Farrell: Christmas complaining season starts earlier and earlier

For more than a century, Americans have taken note that the Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier each year.

That's 100 years of shoulder dropping -- of crumpling at the sight of a too-early wreath or bulb and offering the same sad editorial: "They'll probably start stringing lights at Easter next year."

That's 100 years of seeing Santa on a sales sign in late October and feeling robbed of the big reveal, which many of us have agreed is supposed to come the day after Thanksgiving, when it's OK for us to openly snuggle up to Perry Como and enjoy a peppermint mocha.

Christmas does something to us.

Even to those whose faith might not plumb great depths, the time is sacred.

Because of this, after Labor Day we kind of become adult-shaped children who react deeply, loudly and sometimes irrationally to shapes and colors and how and when they should be arranged.

"THIS is how we celebrate Christmas."

"No. THIS is."

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"Awwwwww. My Starbucks cup isn't decorated right!"

This year, I actually made it a whole week past the first day of the Starbucks holiday cups before I heard the perennial Christmas complaints.

They came from me.

It was 84 degrees outside, and I was driving by the outlet malls.

What's this? Boughs of holly!? I'm going to the beach! How dare they. Everyone is still digesting candy corn.

I quickly looked away.

Then I realized how wonderful it was. I had somehow made it to November without getting Grinched by those who want to jump the gun for sales. I didn't even see a single Santa costume during Halloween.

I know this doesn't seem like a big deal, but it is.

In the Lowcountry, we don't have dramatic seasons to help us truly feel the progression of a year.

There are no blustery autumns in which the crunch of leaves underfoot tells us that it's October.

There are no white Christmases. And to wish for one would be rude, so let's not.

It's even more important to some of us down here to preserve the timing of the holidays, to observe the rites when they're right.

Pumpkins before figgy pudding.

Turkey before prime rib.

Brown-and-orange-wrapped candy before red-and-green-wrapped candy.

I recently saw a sign being circulated on Facebook about Nordstrom. The Seattle-based luxury retailer made this announcement: "We won't be decking our halls until Friday, November 27. Why? Well, we just like the idea of celebrating one holiday at a time. From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving."

It's a marketing ploy, I'm sure, but I got emotional.

Labor Day slides right into the new year. Every year. One day we're barbecuing, the next we're toasting sparkling wine. In between, Thanksgiving and Christmas are pressed together. Distinguishable, but still hurried.

We call it the "holiday season" to be efficient, but something gets lost as we plow our way through them.

There's value in isolating the days, in savoring them. There's value in walking into a store and being able to connect truly with what's in front of us, rather than having to hurry past the display just in case it causes pre-emptive joy.

I hope more stores will follow Nordstrom's lead.

One holiday at a time.

It's the only way to do it.

We can ignore the Christmas creep, that tendency for stores to force something on us before we're ready. But when will they learn that it's not what we want?

Something tells me it'll be another 100 years.

Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at twitter.com/elizfarrell and facebook.com/elizfarrell.

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