I heard the bells on Christmas day.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly Christmas day. It was more like mid-October.
I thought perhaps I had developed tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but no, indeed, there were bells. Silver bells. The kind Rudolph wears.
I had ventured into Home Goods to procure Halloween candles. And possibly a new spider decoration or two. But what to my wondering eyes should appear but aisles overflowing with Santa figurines and snowmen and tinsel and dishtowels embroidered with gingerbread men.
What had happened to Halloween? Had I somehow missed it? Had I fallen into a time travel tunnel on my last date and been transported to an alternate universe?
Then I saw it. Much like a withering floral centerpiece taking up prime space at the dinner table, Halloween had been demoted. Moved to a lesser location, where it could bide its time while quietly awaiting a trip to the dumpster.
It irritated me to think that one of my favorite holidays had yet to occur and was already on its way to the crematorium. Why was Christmas already stealing the spotlight?
Shortly thereafter, I found myself walking into Macy’s while chatting busily with my teenage daughter, Ophelia. Ophelia is a creative, intelligent and sensitive child. As we entered the store, I blurted out a fabulous idea: “In a couple of weeks, let’s put aside a whole day and do some early Christmas shopping!”
Ophelia looked me square in my maternal eyes and said, “Why wait? We could do it right now.”
I did not give birth to Ophelia yesterday. And I know when sarcasm is dripping from the corners of her artfully glossed lips. In that instant, I noticed that Macy’s was already decked out in full Christmas regalia. Bells were ringing and the scent of men’s cologne carried a hint of balsam fir.
The entire scene filled me with dismay and my faith in humankind was once again diminished.
I love Christmas. Even after having had a husband die the morning after the joyous holiday, I still love Christmas. I love the sights, sounds, scents and intensified feelings of love and goodwill that permeate the month of December.
But I don’t love the fact that red and green M&Ms are thrust upon us before the candy corn is barely off the shelves at CVS.
This phenomenon is not just limited to Christmas. As many of you have noticed, Easter now begins sometime around Valentine’s Day, which begins before the last of the Rudolph Pez dispensers have been put on the discount shelf at Target.
Charles (or was it Harold?) asked me recently when it was that everything got decorated for Christmas when I was a kid. I told him I didn’t recall it truly arriving until Thanksgiving was over. Anticipation filled the air. At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I will tell you that I remember scouring the TV guide, anxious to find out when our beloved animated Christmas shows would be airing. And even though we can now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” 365 days a year, my 43-year-old brother still calls, his voice overflowing with excitement as he shrieks: “Turn on the TV – it’s on at eight!”
I know Christmas doesn’t come from a box. As The Grinch pointed out, it comes from the heart. But seeing so much holiday spirit spread out everywhere for 8 to 10 weeks before the fact takes something away from the magic.
Our society seems to put a value on rushing to the next thing before we’ve even enjoyed what’s in front of us. Ultimately, death is what’s at the end of this trip. Which begs the question, “Why are we in such a hurry?”
Children grow up, people age, loved ones leave us. And along the way, we get to be part of this miracle we call life.
I don’t want to hear Christmas bells in mid-October. And I don’t think we should have to. So I implore those of you trying to retain the magic of the holiday season, for your families, your children and yourselves: Stock up on earplugs.
And enjoy every moment, in your own sweet time.