Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Mystery of Bloated Holidays

Nancy Gibbs wrote an interesting essay for TIME Magazine this week, in which she examines our tendency to extend holidays:

"It's as though we've supersized our holidays, so that they start sooner, last longer and cost more, until the calendar pages pull and tear, and we don't know which one we are meant to be celebrating."

I couldn't agree with Gibbs more. Aside from my horror at the radio station that started playing Christmas songs BEFORE Halloween, I have been jarred to note Christmas items for sale in stores long before I am contemplating Christmas. As ever, our consciousness is dictated by our merchants, which of course means what we're really celebrating is a culture of money.

The mystery, though, is why we go along with it--why we don't rebel and demand that the merchants allow us our space in the interim--space to think and reflect and be at peace between holidays which, while happy, are stressful as well. The stress itself is a mystery--who are we trying to please when we attempt to have a Rachael Ray Thanksgiving or a Martha Stewart Christmas when we don't possess the energy of Ray or Stewart?

Are we trying to please ourselves? If that were true, at least some of us would be ordering a Thanksgiving pizza and just enjoying the time with our families. Is it tradition we cling to, then? Do we feel we must do exactly what our parents did? What our grandparents did? What the pilgrims did?

Our behavior is a mystery, and that makes our culture mysterious, especially at the holidays. Gibbs points out the irony of demanding too much holiday and therefore too much pleasure:

"As meals and sleep and work and recess pace the days, so do holidays pace the year. Clump them together, and they lose their fizz and juice, the useful little monthly boosts turned into a pileup of duties and lists. When every day is a holiday--or more precisely, part of the holiday season--none really are."

Inspired by Gibbs, I'm going to resist the retail lure as long as possible and try to live the holidays more closely to what is on the calendar, thereby rendering nothing so big a deal that I can't handle it. And I might enjoy myself more in the process of simplification.


Anonymous said...

This year, they had Christmas decorations up in SF at the end of September. One day I went in to get something at the store, and it was Halloween candy. Two days later it was Christmas decorations, holiday treats and dollar gifts to the ceiling. GAK!

Julia Buckley said...

Exactly--and then you start to think, "What does any of this mean to anyone?"

We must start a quiet revolution. :)