Christmas can't start too early, can't last too long

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, December 3, 2002

By By Lloyd Albritton
Well, I read another newspaper column the other day complaining about the commercialization of Christmas. I hear this every year from a lot of people, but I gotta wonder, do they really mean it?
I'll just about bet you that most of those people who make such complaints can be found at one shopping mall or another on the day after Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year, right along with millions of other shoppers who can't wait for the Christmas season to get under way.
As for me, I love it! I love the Christmas music on the radio and all the Christmas decorations and the Christmas parties and the throngs of brightly-clad, frenzied shoppers at the mall. When you really think about it, if the Christmas shopping stampede starts the day after Thanksgiving, that is only a month, or less, before Christmas. Even if some merchants start their Christmas marketing right after Halloween, is that really so bothersome?
To me, it only introduces the subtle mood of Christmas and helps to prepare us for the full onslaught following Thanksgiving. Besides, I can't tell you how many people I hear boasting these days of getting their Christmas shopping done early (even in September and October) to avoid the big rush.
Hey, Christmas is not about getting our shopping over with. It's about the process. What's the matter with these people? This is like leaving a concert or a ball game early to avoid the heavy traffic. They miss the best part.
Traffic! Ah yes, the traffic. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe people hate the heavy traffic during Christmas season. Well, I can understand that, but this still does not explain why people complain so much. Isn't traffic bad all the time, everywhere? People who complain about the crowds and the traffic during the Christmas season are like people who complain about bad television when it is they themselves who control the on/off button and who also complain about having too many channels to select from.
If they don't like the crowds and the traffic, why don't they just stay home and watch ball games? Oh, but don't get me started on ball games. Some of the same people who complain about the Christmas crowds will drive 1,000 miles to attend a college ball game and fight their way in and out through huge crowds and then talk for days about how great the game was, never once mentioning the horror of the crowds.
Do some long for the simpler days of Christmas? The good old days when we got maybe one toy? Or maybe a new pair of socks and a package of handkerchiefs? I don't get it. Man, they have some great stuff out there in those malls: nice clothes, interesting gadgets, and doo-dads and toys of all kinds. I think those who complain ought to be given, say a handmade shoe tree for Christmas, while the rest of us tear into our good stuff on Christmas morning. We'll see how good they like those good old days.
The days before Christmas are filled with song and joyful music and family visits and gift-giving, while the day after Christmas is filled with blase. I mean, like suddenly, even as early as the afternoon of Christmas day, BAM! it's over. The curtain comes down with a thud. People are so depressed that they collapse on couches and lazy-boys and all over the floor and sigh, "I'm so glad it's over." So glad it's over! Don't they really mean, "So sad it's over?"
I think the thing that we really hate about Christmas, the only thing really, is that we feel compelled to spend money on gifts for other people. It puts a knot in our stingy guts. We spend money on ourselves all year long, for crying out loud! Whatever we want for ourselves, we buy it. The Christmas season, however, is about others. It is about giving gifts to those we love, other than ourselves.
There is truly a certain pain in using up our hard-earned savings or credit lines for gifts to others. The whole process stretches those spiritual muscles that are often couch potatoes the rest of the year. At Christmas time, most of us give more gifts to others than we do all the other months of the year put together. We literally give until it hurts. When our physical muscles get flabby and we begin an exercise program, they hurt too. These painful muscles remind us of just how out-of-shape we have become and hopefully inspire us to exercise on a more regular basis all year long. Perhaps that is the lesson we should take away from the sore muscles of Christmas. If it hurts too bad, maybe this means we should be giving more gifts the rest of the year, just to keep our souls in shape.
Christmas season is a good time and it is good for us. I don't think it starts too early and I don't think it lasts too long. I don't think Christmas is about Santa Clause, or even about Jesus Christ, who we all know was not born at this time of the year anyway. What's that you say? You say you want to know what I think? OK then, I'll tell you.
I think Christmas is a human exercise of the heart and soul. A time to tune the radio to that good Christmas music and get out there among'em and to just let the aura of this wonderful holiday take over and see what happens. To borrow a phrase from Ralph Kramden, "Baby, it's the greatest!"
Lloyd Albritton publishes a series of commentaries on the Internet entitled The Albritton Letters at He can be contacted at
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