Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, November 14, 2005

The December Dilemna comes earlier and earlier

It used to be, in the more civilized days of yore, that Christmas revelry was confined to that period between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. You would consume vast amounts of turkey and sit in a stupor watching football games as your family argued around you, and then you'd struggle off the couch, put on your coat and drive across the state to get plenty of rest for..... The Day After Thanksgiving Sales. The biggest shopping day of the year. That day when PETA protests fur purchases by marching around downtown department stores, mall parking lots are completely filled up so that even the handicapped spaces are taken, the day when you sharpen up your credit cards and take on the debt of a small Caribbean nation. We all knew that this time period was hell, but you got through it. As a Jew, I've always stayed completely out of stores except for the grocery, from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. There was little reason for me to shop anyhow, since we're not the kind of Jewish family that makes Chanukah into the "Jewish Christmas". My kids get small Chanukah presents, but nothing like Christmas at all.

As a Jew, I wasn't that happy that an essentially one day holiday took up more than a month on the shopping calendar, but you can't fight city hall on this one. However, Christmas now begins the day after Halloween, and people are already bragging about how their shopping is almost all done, and have planned their holiday down to what they're planning to eat at every meal. Sorry folks, but this is ridiculous. Christmas is a religious holiday that lasts all of 24 hours. Yes, it's a big one on the Christian calendar, but it isn't a secular holiday, it's all about the birth of the Christian version of the Messiah. That gifts are exchanged is a nice practice. We all love gifts, don't we? But to take over an entire culture for 2 full months out of the calendar year for this one 24 hour period is really overdoing it, doncha think? I do understand that this is the retailer's choice, but my feeling is, if you didn't shop for Christmas items until after Thanksgiving, maybe this would all be dialed back.

One year not too long ago, I was in a suburban Filenes the day after Yom Kippur returning something that I had bought the day before Yom Kippur. I believe this was in late September. When I bought the item, the store was completely normal. Two days later, the store was completely overhauled into Santa's Workshop Winter Wonderland. That they decorated the store on Yom Kippur was bad enough, but they did so WEEKS before even Halloween. That's just too ridiculous for words. I found it personally insulting as well.

It's hard to be Jewish this time of year. Fortunately, my family lives in an area where almost half of the population is Jewish and our town doesn't not go overboard at all. Most of the stores barely decorate, and if they do, they're tasteful and not overly Christmassy. You don't hear a lot of Christmas music around here in stores either. I rarely leave my town, especially this time of year. I'm not continually assaulted with the "Merry Christmas!" salutation, it's more like "Happy Holidays" around here. People don't usually ask my kids what they want for Christmas, or what Santa's going to be bringing them. We're pretty sensitive around here, but surrounding us on all sides are hordes of Bostonians who aren't that accomodating. It's better not to leave town but heck, I didn't expect to have to spend months holed up. I want things back to the old days when Christmas started right after Thanksgiving. Isn't that enough time?
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Blogger Cattiva said...

You know what? Even as a Christian, this holiday has become a commercial nightmare. I have been appalled that the stores start their Christmas displays before Halloween has even passed.

I am with you - I wish the marketing juggernaut would at least wait until Thanksgiving is older. *sigh*

14/11/05 11:59 PM  
Blogger Celena said...

In Canada, Thanksgiving is mid-October and the Christmas stuff starts right after, with a little bit of Hallowe'en thrown in for variety. I don't mind though. I love Christmas, and although I'm ashamed to say it, I love being a consumer! (sorry). Does it offend you when someone says "Merry Christmas" to you? Just wondering. There aren't a lot of Jewish people in my area (in fact I've only ever met one Jewish family my whole life living here), but there ARE a lot of J.W.s and I know it bugs them when all the Christmas stuff is up and when people say "Merry Christmas" to them. As a Christian though, I don't mean offence to people when I say it. (sorry so long!)

15/11/05 12:00 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

Yeah, if does bother me when people say Merry Christmas. I know nobody means to be mean but it's exclusionary. I don't celebrate Christmas and I certainly don't want to pretend that I do. So I end up saying something lame like "Thank you but we don't celebrate Christmas" and then I get these looks of pure pity, like we're missing out on something. I don't feel we're missing out, we have more than enough Jewish holidays to keep us busy. I just don't like that it's always assumed that EVERYONE celebrates Christmas because they don't. And I hate when people say that it's a secular holiday when it clearly isn't.

15/11/05 1:08 AM  
Blogger Celena said...

I think that if someone said "Happy Chanukah" to me, I would say "Well, happy Chanukah to YOU, but I'll be having a Merry Christmas!" And then I'd smile sincerly and invite them over for hot chocolate. (ok, maybe not actually invite them over, but probably chat with them some more, 'cause I don't know anyone personally who's Jewish, but I'd love to discuss and learn more about your traditions and such)Since I've started blogging I've "met" so many Jews, and it's pretty neat!

And if I don't talk to you again before December, then HAPPY CHANUKAH! (and I'll have a Merry Christmas!):D

(and Jesus was born a Jew!)

15/11/05 2:14 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

I could not agree w/you more!

Well said, Margalit.

15/11/05 10:35 AM  
Blogger Michele said...

Stopping by to say hello....

And to nod my head in agreement. Now, I MUST blogroll you!

15/11/05 2:56 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

I was stunned this year when I saw the first "Holiday" shopping commercial on TV ON HALLOWEEN. That was a first. Wow.

Retailers may be especially panicked this year with gas prices so high and the economy depressed and folks generally in a more frugal state of mind.

To me, Santa Clause is secular. "Real" Christmas is not. And I've always been a little surprised that more is not made among Christians about Easter. I mean, that's kind of the "Hey-HEY" part of our whole faith, you know? And somehow Christmas takes over the whole year. Spiritually, Easter is by far the most important and sacred holy day for this Christian.

16/11/05 2:53 AM  
Anonymous colleen said...

I've always loved Christmas but am increasingly irritated by the commercialization of it and the push to get the latest cookie cutter gadgets.

16/11/05 10:07 AM  
Blogger Happy Mama to Three said...

I'm a Christmas time of gal but I don't like the extremes that the retail world has jerked my celebration into. If you know what I mean. I love the celebration of both Jesus birth, and I see it as my yearly rebirth and reassurance of forgiveness, spirituality, and hope. HOWEVER, I hate the pressure the world puts on everyone to jump on the Christmas bandwagon. You know, I am sitting here with a huge post in my mind about this, so I am going to tag myself from your blog (aren't I wonderful to do it for you) and write my own opinion over there. Thanks Marj for the inspiration.


16/11/05 11:54 AM  
Blogger margalit said...

I seem to have struck a nerve that goes across religious lines. Interesting. I really think that if people rise up and just refuse to shop until after Thanksgiving and let the retailers know their plans, then maybe we can push this holiday back a bit. And blog about it, too. C has the right idea. The more people that raise this issue, the more awareness we can build. Yeah, a revolution!

From your favorite anarchist, M

16/11/05 5:20 PM  
Blogger Carmi said...

I wrote a column last year about how retailers are constantly battling to push the selling season for every season as far as they possibly can.

The retail imperative has taken over, and there isn't a whole lot us proles can do about it.

My kids want to know why they don't get eight big presents for Chanukah. Sigh.

17/11/05 12:45 AM  

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