Did you notice? This year, the Halloween candy was barely sorted (M&Ms, Snickers, Tootsie Pops/Rolls=keep, Almond Joys=trade), when a full-scale, no-holds-barred, in-your-face Christmas assault was launched. Drug stores are full of Christmas tree ornaments and candy-striped candles, playing “Jingle Bell Rock.” Snowy television ads are jingling about Christmas presents. It’s like they took some secret retail vote to universally launch Christmas at the Earliest. Possible. Moment. The first week of November is a new record.
I used to think it was a conspiracy to skip Thanksgiving. It’s ironic that a holiday dedicated to thankfulness falls on the day before the biggest shopping day of the year. This year, I thought it was just a contrived effort to pump up the sagging economy – to get people spending generously and often.
The thing is, it’s not just stores rushing Christmas. I’ve seen people post on blogs or Twitter about putting up their Christmas trees and decorations – two weeks before Thanksgiving. It seems unusual. Why are we reaching for Christmas so early?
For some reason, I thought of Narnia, trapped in perpetual winter at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, first book in The Chronicles of Narnia series. After stumbling through an old wardrobe, Lucy finds frozen Narnia under a spell cast by the White Witch. “She has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia – always winter, but it never gets to be Christmas,” explains Lucy.
This has been a long, hard year. Stock market crashes. Homes in foreclosure. Record numbers of people without jobs. Bailouts. Massive debt. It’s as though we’ve been in the grip of a perpetual economic winter for so long that we’re yearning for Christmas. We need its inherent hope, its promise that all will ultimately be right with the world. It’s not that we’re not thankful – in fact this Thanksgiving will probably be a year in which we truly appreciate what we have. But in the midst of deep winter, we look towards Christmas.