The season of giving seems to have turned into the season of being pissed off — at non-traditional Santa displays, at coffee cups that don’t adequately express the holiday spirit, at the people who are pissed off about the Santa displays and coffee cups. But the biggest so-called controversy is when we should start celebrating Christmastime, as every year it starts creeping earlier and earlier in an attempt to capitalize on the holiday shoppers who are chomping at the bit to start spending money.
Some stores are rejecting that notion, in a savvy marketing move to gain publicity (and therefore, dollars) by bucking the trend. “See us, we are keeping the sacred holiday timeline!” they shout. “We uphold all the traditional values you hold dear!”
Normally, I would agree with them. I hate the commercialization of Christmas, I hate change, and I love companies that seem to stand up for what’s right in the face of what makes money.
But not this time.
“We haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet!” you exclaim. “The day after Halloween, the stores roll out the Christmas decorations! It’s just wrong! Can’t we have one holiday at a time?”
This is a fair point. But here’s the thing — Thanksgiving just doesn’t have much of a lead up to it. It’s one day, and besides a bit of preparation at the grocery store or a day of pie-baking, there’s not much that happens in advance of the holiday. It doesn’t need time to celebrate besides the actual day.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Thanksgiving. It’s just not that exciting. It’s a cozy, stay-home-and-stuff-your-face-and-watch-football kind of day. It doesn’t need nearly a month of lead-in time.
But Christmas does — and more. Every year after Thanksgiving, I scramble to get in all my Christmastime reveling in the month before the holiday hits. Never mind the shopping — what about Christmas parties and cookie baking and Christmas movie watching and Santa trains and tree trimming and caroling and card writing?
It’s nearly impossible.
I’ve often thought that the holiday season needs to be more spread out. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the calendar and just move things around a bit? There’s really nothing of interest that happens between January and April. It’s such a boring, dreary time of year. What if we could add in a little more time between the summer and Halloween, and then between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and finally (and most importantly) between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Then all the holidays could get their due, no one would be complaining that Thanksgiving is getting the shaft, and we’d be saved the boring-ness that is the winter and early spring. (At least the winter has the possibility of snow days. Don’t even get me started on the drab, dull, brown month of March.)
So this year, I’ve decided I’m OK with the blatant disregard of Thanksgiving in favor of a jump-start on Christmas. Turkey Day, I haven’t forgotten you. I will look forward to your yummy deliciousness, Macy’s parade, football, and my favorite (only?) Thanksgiving movie, Home for the Holidays.
But Christmas, I welcome you early. I don’t mind if radio stations have started playing Christmas music already — just today I heard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” my all-time favorite holiday song from my all-time favorite holiday movie, Meet Me in St. Louis. I don’t care that I’m currently watching a Christmas commercial for the Hess truck that came on during a football game in which the players are dressed in bright red and green (a subliminal message?).
I embrace the winter-themed decor in stores, traditional or not (after all, I never believed in Santa anyway). Even though I’m still eating Halloween candy (what? better me than my two-year-old), I will start thinking about my holiday eats and actually might start my Christmas shopping.
I love Christmas, so I don’t mind jumping on the early bandwagon.
How do you feel about starting Christmastime early? Do you think we should wait until after Thanksgiving?
After my Huffington Post piece about how I don’t plan to introduce the concept of Santa to my son, I received a lot of feedback thanking me for going against the grain of what’s “expected” for your kids at Christmas. I’ve also read a lot of other articles, and heard from other moms in my FB groups, about the pressure they feel Elf on the Shelf puts on them. Coming up with new and exciting poses for a creepy elf doll every night? No thank you!
But this got me wondering: We talk about the peer pressure that kids face, but is there a sort of peer pressure for parents as well? As if you need to follow certain trends, or just “the way things are done,” and if you don’t, you – or worse, your kid – will be ostracized?
This worries me, because in many ways I don’t feel like I’m the “typical” parent. I don’t follow all the rules, Santa being one of them. For all the positive messages I got from secret Santa-haters (people who secretly hate Santa, not people who hate participating in secret Santas), I bet there were a lot of other moms who thought I was downright weird for not including him in my child’s Christmas celebrations. Maybe this explains why the piece itself got ten thousand likes, but when I posted it on my own Facebook page it got a grand total of…three.
Because of my past experience with struggling to have a child, I still sometimes feel like I’m on the outside looking in. So things that might seem to other moms who fell into motherhood easily to be just the way things are done, don’t seem that way to me. I already feel like I’m an outsider, like I’m different, that that is all strange and new. So I just don’t “get” many parenting trends.
I blame Pinterest for a lot of it. Like Martha Stewart‘s magazine, looking at all the cute and crafty ideas for everything from birthday party decorations to desserts to Elf on the Shelf setups has the (unintended?) consequence of feeling that you need to aspire to do them; and that if you don’t, well, you’re just not as crafty or smart or involved as the moms who do. I love looking at that stuff, I admit it. But I do feel inadequate afterwards, because I know I don’t even have it in me to attempt any of it. It just exacerbates my mom guilt.
And it’s not just about making things. It’s also about what family activities you do, what traditions you have, what social expectations exist for us as parents. And a lot of that is fueled by social media. For example, I never did the monthly sticker pictures – every month in the first year of your child’s life you put a sticker on his onesie and take a picture (and, even more importantly, post it on Facebook). Although, I admit that I did do the ubiquitous smash cake for LM’s first birthday. Other items to check off your family Facebook to-do list: Taking a hayride to a pumpkin patch in the fall. Getting professional holiday photos done. Sitting on Santa’s lap. Everything is a photo opp, and though I love taking pictures, I hate that there has become a social expectation that you will have certain photos for every season, and you will dutifully post them on FB just like everyone else.
Does this mean that I’m a secret non-conformist?
I’m sure it will only get worse when my son starts school. At holiday time, maybe he’ll come home asking why we don’t have an elf, or why he doesn’t get gifts from Santa. Or he’ll ruin Santa for kids who do believe, the way I outed St. Nick to my first-grade class, and then all the other moms will hate me.
I don’t know how I will handle that when it happens. For now, I’m still working on not comparing myself to other moms or my son to other kids. I’m trying to make peace with being a mom who’s, well, maybe a little lazier than others; or maybe one who just puts more emphasis on different things. Maybe there are other kid-related activities I would rather spend my time doing instead of coming up with 30 ways to position an elf. So maybe our family will have other traditions that aren’t the norm.
The interesting thing is, I don’t know any actual moms who make me feel peer pressured (yet, anyway). But somehow the inertia of Facebook and Pinterest put forth the idea that there are all of these “things” I need to do in order to be a good mom. I’m tired of holding myself to some impossible, cookie-cutter standard that probably doesn’t really exist anyway. I just don’t have the time, or the energy, or the inclination.
Do you feel parental peer pressure? Do you think it comes from social media, or other moms, or both?
No, it’s not because LM has been naughty! Check out my latest Huffington Post piece to find out why I’m not a believer.
Bah, humbug! Merry Christmas!