When my niece and her friend walked in the door a couple of nights ago, I could tell these young ladies were all giggly about something. Turns out the friend had spontaneously started singing a Christmas carol, which got them all exuberant about the upcoming holiday season. I expressed approval of such positive thoughts, but what stuck in my mind is: We still have a couple of weeks to go until Halloween; isn’t it a bit early to be thinking about Christmas?
Traditionally, the holiday season in the United States kicks off the day after Thanksgiving (known to retailers as Black Friday), the biggest shopping day of the year. Just after midnight, the “door buster” sales begin, the success of which determines whether many businesses make it or break it for the entire year. I never cease to be amused at the lines of people extending out from the doors of the big box stores, (im)patiently waiting all night (and sometimes comically consuming their Thanksgiving dinners) in their lawn chairs and sleeping bags.
As the years go by, however, it seems that the holiday season begins earlier and earlier, the rotten economy notwithstanding. After all, the survival of retail sales is at stake, so every store will be sure to do its utmost to let the public know that Christmas is just around the corner, by golly. Let’s get the children in a parent-annoying frenzy as early as possible. All you kids out there, get off the freakin’ PlayStation and write your wanna-wanna and gotta-have lists for Santa immediately. This will give you plenty of time to add to and lengthen your lists so that your parents and assorted relatives will have no choice but to buy, buy, buy and thereby save the American economy from going to wrack and ruin.
To me, the holiday season begins whenever I hear the first Christmas song while out in public. Some years this happens over my car radio when some zealous DJ is suddenly overcome with a burst of holiday feeling. One year it happened right after we sat down to eat at Outback Steakhouse, when the grating rock music they tend to play suddenly switched over to Madonna performing her version of “Santa Baby.” Another year it happened while I was taking a dump in a Burger King men’s room and what should I hear over the public address system but the opening notes of “Silent Night” being crooned by Bing Crosby.
You never know where it will happen, but one thing is constant: It always takes me by surprise. And my first thought is always the same: No, no, not yet! It’s only October! Can’t you people at least wait until November
1? You know, the day after Halloween?
And so, two days after my niece and her friend brought the issue to my attention, it happened. The 2013 holiday season officially began on October 16 as I pushed a shopping cart through Wal-Mart. This had nothing to do with the store’s choice of music-to-buy-by, either. No, my wife and I were in the baby aisles looking for diapers for my grandniece when I had the bad luck to hear “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” blaring out of a Fisher-Price display. Tag, I’m it!
You know what they say: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
And so, conceding to the inevitable, I have Michael Bublé singing a jaunty version of “Holly Jolly Christmas” through my late night headphones.
Luckily for me, music closer to the holiday traditions of my own faith are more readily available now than ever. And so I am thrilled and delighted to have discovered Matisyahu (the singing Chasid from Brooklyn) performing “Happy Hanukkah (I Wanna Give a Gift to You)” in his wonderful reggae style. Thanks, Spotify (and YouTube).
And to you, all my readers, I say merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and, uh, trick or treat! And to all a good night.