Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thanksgiving Comes First
As a child growing up in the Hyde Park section of Boston I used to look forward to our "Holiday Bazaar" held each year in the auditorium of my school. I attended Joesph P. Kennedy Jr. Memorial School, a catholic school complete with uniforms, a chapel and of course, tough as nails, nuns. The bazaar was the first indication that Christmas was somewhere in the near future. The bazaar would have tons of arts and crafts for sale, most with a Christmas theme. There would be holiday wreaths, candles and tree ornaments for sale along with cookies, cakes and pies. There were games of chance such as a roulette wheel and a game wherein you pulled a lollipop from a Styrofoam base and if you had a green tip on it you won a prize such as a football, baseball or a toy car. If you didn't get a green tip, you got the lollipop, which was the real reason why you plopped down your quarter. The women manning the booths at the bazaar would all be wearing Santa's Hats, elf caps or holiday earrings. The bazaar was held the second weekend in November, so the memory of Halloween had faded and the anticipation of Turkey and cranberry sauce was simmering. The bazaar at my school and other holiday bazaars held in various parishes, schools and local men's clubs were usually the first time people put any thought into Christmas since the preceding year when they brought their dying, dried out trees to the curbside. It was when the browns and oranges of fall were starting to be replaced by the greens and reds of the impending Christmas season.
Christmas in the Catholic church is celebrated in the four weeks preceeding Christmas
in the season known as Advent. There is an Advent Wreath that is presented in the front of the church next to the alter, which has three purple candles and one rose colored candle surrounding a white candle nestled around the wreath. During each Sunday a new candle is lit to remind us of the coming of the birth of Christ and the white candle is lit on Christmas day. Our nuns reminded us of this fact each day in class. Although we got a glimpse of the "big" holiday to come at the bazaar, we all knew there would be no acknowledgement in school or church of the start of the Christmas season until the first Advent candle was lit the first Sunday after Thanksgiving.
I took piano lessons for a number of years after school. I would start practicing Christmas carols when the windows were still open and a warm breeze blowing across the keyboard, so I would know the songs in time for our Christmas recital. The parents who donated crafts to the bazaar would start knitting scarfs and sweaters at Labor Day cookouts. My mother would shop for bargains when she had the money or found a particularly good bargain as early as June. Christmas preparations were always in the works, but behind the scenes and without fanfare.
30 years after I last set foot in my old school things have changed. Christmas has been commercialized to the point of having year round stores with Christmas themes, year round Christmas music channels on cable TV, Christmas displays set up before Halloween and Christmas commercials starting the first of November. In this world of immediate gratification anticipation is an emotion that has fallen by the wayside.
The holiday bazaar, cherry pickers putting up Christmas lights in the town square the day after Thanksgiving and Santa at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade where all signs that the Christmas season was near. The lighting of the Advent wreath let me know the Christmas season was here. What are the signs now? Macy's Pre Pre-Chrismas sale, in October? Buy one get one Christmas CD's at Wal-Mart, in October? Home Depot's sale on artificial trees, in October? The Christmas season has lost its mystique and charm in the quest for the almighty dollar.
My cousin Jimmy's (aka: Sul-Dog) favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I have to agree with him to an extent. I love the unconditional aspect of Thanksgiving. You prepare a tremendous spread, spend time with friends and family, watch hours of parades and football and give thanks for all you have. There are no expectations beyond that. But, I still love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the decorations. I love the traditions. My wish is that we stop diluting the holiday by starting Christmas in October. One of my favorite stories growing up was a story called "Christmas Every Day". In that story a boy gets his wish of having Christmas every day and soon realizes that it loses its appeal when there are Christmas Carols in July and gifts all the time. Its a lesson I wish corporate America would learn.
I love Thanksgiving, but Christmas is still my favorite holiday. I just wish everyone would remember that Thanksgiving comes first.
(Please visit my cousin's spot (click here)to see the inspiration for this post.)