It’s November! Why My Christmas Season Starts NOW (and Why You Should Let It)

I’m about to take a stand on a CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE, friends. Because I, apparently, have no sense of self-preservation. That coupled with Big Opinions means we’re doing this.

We’re talking about the fact that it is the very dawn of November, but Christmas starts NOW, and why that’s actually a good thing and you should let us do it.

Confession: Holidays have, in the past, stressed me out. Which is not much of a confession since it’s most people’s experience. It’s like saying CONFESSION: I sneak Oreos when my children aren’t looking. Tell you something you don’t know, right? Holidays have, in the past, stressed me out. NO SURPRISE. Except, of course, there’s an expectation that holidays are JOYFUL, dammit. OUR CULTURE DEMANDS IT. And it especially demands that mothers Make It So. Culture demands we make it so, AND we’re overjoyed by it ourselves. We are, in other words, supposed to be the Opposite Of Stressed Out by the holidays — we’re supposed to be CELEBRATORY and SERENE — or we’re somehow doing it wrong. 

That’s a lot of pressure, friends. To be stressed out but to be told it’s not supposed to be stressful while carrying the weight of All the Expectations. WHEEEEEEE! Free fun for mamas this season.

But I’ve been doing this mama gig for 21 years now, and I’ve figured a few things out in that time. Namely, how not to lose my entire mind during the whirlwind that is October through December. 

Now, I’ve made my stance on holidays quite clear in the past, and you can read all the details here.

My main problem is this: Halloween comes, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s Day.  THAT IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. It’s too much, I tell you. Too much to cram four separate holidays — each of which requires separate thought, planning, activities, decorations, and family time — into a 62-day window.

And that’s why I begin celebrating Christmas at the tail end of October.

Halloween is but the first event of Christmas season. We half-ass our costumes, we listen to Christmas music, and we put up Halloween Christmas lights which other people call just “Christmas lights.” Followed by the second event of Christmas which is Thanksgiving (unless you’re Canadian, in which case you’re allowed by law to flip those), by which we usually have the tree up and twinkling; yes, before we cook the turkey. Followed by the third event of Christmas which is Christmas Itself, where we minimize gifts as much as possible. Followed by the final, wrap-up event of Christmas which is the New Year.  

It is ALL Christmas. Unless you’re from another tradition, in which case you’re welcome to make it all Kwanza or all Hanukkah or all I Don’t Worship at the Feet of Dominant Culture So Back Off, Lady, and Quit Telling Me What to Do. If that’s true for you, then fine. Really, it’s my whole point anyway. Quit telling us what to do.

Today in America — November 1st — we began that Holiest of Modern Holidays in America. No, not All Saints Day, although it’s coincidentally the same day. I’m talking about the other November 1st holiday, a day I lovingly refer to as Loudly Complain All the Christmas Stuff Is Up in Stores Day. Alternatively called NOTHING FOR CHRISTMAS SHOULD BE UP ‘TIL AFTER THANKSGIVING Day.

So, in case you, like me, feel pressured to Wait for Christmas and then cram All The Christmas Stuff into Not Enough Time, I’m going to explain why and how I gave that whole idea the finger and started doing Christmas my way…. October 31-January 1.

Here’s what I finally figured out:

1. It is Very Weird that Americans think our national Thanksgiving holiday — which is celebrated nowhere other than our country — should be the universally accepted marker for when Christmas season is allowed to begin. I mean, HOW WILL OTHER COUNTRIES KNOW THEY’RE ALLOWED TO DECORATE FOR JESUS’ BIRTH? It’s bizarre that we’ve established the first Friday after the fourth Thursday of November as the Universal Starting Line for the Great Race that Christmas has become. Right? It’s odd. “ON YOUR MARKS… GET SET… G—… OH NO, FOLKS! We’ve had a FALSE START! Someone tried to buy peppermint bark TOO SOON. Someone jumped the gun on Pentatonix Silent Night. Now EVERYONE GO BACK. Linda ruined it for all of us by putting up her lights mid-November.” So down with that. I mean, YOU are welcome to wait until American Thanksgiving is over. Go for it! But you are not welcome to tell me I should wait, too. Because no. Nope. Uh uh. 

2. It is Very Weird there are people in this world WHO CARE about restricting other humans to a narrow window of when they’re allowed to celebrate anything. Who have made themselves the Arbiters of When Christmas May Begin. Who are morally incensed by seeing Christmas ornaments in  mall stores before we’ve handed out Halloween candy. Who take time to lament on social media and ask What the World Has Come To that they can purchase candy canes before turkey and cranberry sauce have even touched our lips. I am baffled. I do not know what’s really bothering them that they take time out of their lives to both grieve the loss of store shelf space to red and green wrapping paper and chastise humans who grab egg nog from the dairy case while leaves are still falling from the trees. Is it symbolic of their frustration that People Refuse to Follow the Rules? Is it a specific expression of the more general Kids These Days frustration? Someone please help me understand why anyone is troubled by this. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

3. Insisting that Christmas season with all its trappings (family gatherings, celebratory meals, Advent Sundays, wrapped presents under a decorated tree sourced tromping through the mud in the forest, lights and candles, hot cocoa, stockings and related stuffings, sitting on a red suited stranger’s lap, sucking on candy canes, and Christmas goddamn cheer), for which the vast majority of the organizational, physical, and emotional labor falls to women, be shoehorned into a 4-week window that cannot start until the crack of the gun on midnight following American Thanksgiving is pure madness. Madness, I tell you. Madness. 

And, really, it’s that third point I wanted to get to. Yes, the arbitrary start of Christmas season makes no sense. And yes, it’s strange that folks assign themselves to police the timeline. But mostly it’s not OK that women are simultaneously expected to pull off All That Is Expected of Christmas in order to Make Their Children’s Memories Magical while also being told — explicitly and implicitly — by the dominant culture that they ought to be happy and unstressed while doing it in an artificially small timeframe, neither thinking about nor purchasing the supplies they’ll need while they’re supposed to be focused solely on the joy and non-stress of Thanksgiving.

Ha!

That’s what I want to say.

HAhahahahahahahahaHA!

Now, OBVIOUSLY I’ve seen all the articles and admonitions that we just need to SIMPLIFY the holiday. That we need to MINIMIZE. That we need to FOCUS on the REASON FOR THE SEASON. That modern society is too focused on STUFF. That we’ve commercialized JESUS. 

But guess what? WE ALSO EXPECT WOMEN TO DO THE EMOTIONAL LABOR OF RETHINKING THE HOLIDAY. Rethinking which things to simplify. Prioritizing what stays and what goes. Communicating our New Plan and New Expectations to our children and extended families. And you know what? I HAVE. I HAVE simplified. I HAVE minimized. I HAVE focused —> which is why Christmas begins on Halloween now <— but it turns out I still have children and parents and in-laws and church and “secret Santas” for every school group and extracurricular activity. It turns out I still have to use brain space to think about literally dozens… probably hundreds… of details including thoughtful gifts; stocking stuffers that won’t break the bank; menus for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, Christmas dinner, and additional family get-togethers; activities like tree-trimming and seeing Santa and playing together in the snow — activities that build our family and create memories and make this season one that’s not reduced to just checking items off my To Do List.

The truth is, I want to do these things. This season is joyful. And I love the work of making magic happen. 

I love the anticipation.

I love sitting in the dark with idea that Love takes the form of a baby and grows and walks among us in flesh.

I love cozy slippers and hot tea and fire in the fire place.

I love giving my kids their childhood and making tiny dreams come true.

I love thinking about what each person on my list might truly enjoy.

I love brown paper packages tied up with string which are the only kind I wrap anymore because a) they make me happy and b) it’s SO MUCH EASIER to just keep a roll of butcher paper on hand than it is to manage wrapping paper and bows. 

I love all of it. Truly. Especially once I figured out I could reach inside the Enormous Bag of Expectations and pull out only those that serve me and my people well. 

And that’s just it.

The crux of the whole thing.

I love all of the bits I choose to do. I just don’t love folks trying to force me into a tiny timeframe in which to do it. 

You know?

You know.

So it’s November now. HOORAY! Christmas has begun! And I’m prepared to apologize for that 0%.

😉 

Waving in the dark, friends — or, actually, waving by the light of my Halloween Christmas lights,

 

 

 

 

Next Post
Previous Post

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
17 comments
  1. I’ve started slowly picking out gifts, and it feels nice and un-stressed. I have next weekend scheduled to work on some crafted gifts. I plan to order cards the week following that so I can get them out early, instead of adding them to my week-of-Christmas to-do list. I like the way you point out that so much of this burden falls on women. My husband doesn’t usually think about Christmas until the 23rd (other than putting up lights), so I’ve stopped waiting for his participation in the prep-work. Getting everything done early makes so much more sense. If he adds something extra in the last couple days, that’s fine.

    Also, my Grampa may or may not make it until Christmas this year. I’ve been visiting him at his care facility and singing to him. The next time I go, I plan to add in some Christmas songs and bring a picture to brighten up his room. There is no need for someone in a medically fragile condition to have to wait on the culture’s arbitrary timeline!

  2. Yes! Thanks for saying it all so well! Cannot wait to share your words! And Merry Christmas!

    1. Accidentally left you my wrong web address in previous comment.

  3. I love this! All of this. I must add though that even though my family thinks I am silly, “The holidays” start at my house on Oct.1st and run until mid January. I have been known to secretly start my personal holiday-making in mid September.❤️ Love to you all!

  4. Honestly, I think the reason seeing Christmas all over the stores so early is the commercialism of it all. I have no real objection to Christmas lights up really, in fact I love seeing the lights and love when they stay up after Christmas, to brighten the long dark days of winter. The commercial aspect is just marketing, trying to get people to spend spend spend on more stuff. So I’m down with minimizing! As always, thanks for sharing!

  5. This is so great. You may have converted me. I usually get super annoyed at all the early Christmas things in the stores because it stresses me out…I love all our holiday traditions but also get really anxious thinking about how I’ll have to squeeze it all in and all the extra mental energy it will take to make all the holiday magic happen. Also, I really love fall. AND YET, I prefer your outlook! It sounds less stressful. I could give myself more time to do the holiday things we like doing so they feel less time sensitive and pressured. I think I may even let the non-time sensitive holiday traditions linger into the first weeks of January… this will be interesting!

  6. Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes and yes again.

  7. I adhere to the enjoy November and Thanksgiving rule but refuse to take the tree down until at least the end of January. Sometimes through Valentine’s Day. I’ve even considered not taking it down at all – just make it our family tree that gets redecorated for each season. Sue me.

    My point is everyone should allowed to celebrate as they see fit. Parent as they see fit. Adult as they see fit. Why do adults continue to pass judgement on others? That’s a juvenile behavior. Literally. We are not in high school anymore

  8. We have a week’s holiday from school in October and I start Christmas preparation after we get back. It probably helps that my husband hates Hallowe’en so we don’t have to do that and we don’t have Thanksgiving here (although we still have Black/Cyber whatevers) so we have no other holiday to make more work.
    I used to follow Flylady (before I found quilting and ditched housework) and her approach was to pretend to yourself that you were going on a long cruise on 1st December and returning a few days before Christmas. All your gift buying, card writing, grocery shopping, house guest preparation had to be done before you left on your imaginary cruise. December could have a little breathing space to finish up or do the cookie making or eggnog drinking.
    I had a CD on the other day (while quilting) which had a few quiet Christmas songs. It was so soothing to the soul.

    Happy Christmas!

  9. I’m a recovering Christmas hater. I hated it because of poor boundary maintenance and very dysfunctional extended family.

    A couple years ago my husband and I started to claim our holidays for ourselves. There was push back and nastiness from the people who we expected it from. So no big surprise there. But now they can criticize us to each other and at least we don’t have to listen to it anymore.

    Last year for Christmas we took our two children (9 and 11 with T1D) and we rented a cabin at a state park nearby and cut down a live tree and decorated it with tinsel and pretty seed pods we found in the woods and a few of our favorite un breakable ornaments. You wouldn’t believe how many people responded with “Oh wow! I wish I could do that!” when we told them our plans.

    And some of those awful family members have only gotten more vicious. But some others have actually started to actually treat us with a little more respect. Not a lot more. But it’s progress.

    And I’m starting to not hate Christmas so much. And maybe like myself a little more.

  10. And now, for the first time ever in my must-rigidly-follow-all-the-rules-even-if-they’re-not-actually-rules life, I’m convinced that Christmas can start before Thanksgiving. Bonus points to you for helping me also think I have permission to enjoy it as I see fit.

  11. Great plan – I’m right with you. For me Christmas starts very early because of the baking – English Christmas baked goods are typically items that need time to mature so if you make your own you have to start mid-October ideally. Over here our last holiday before Christmas is Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night (5th November) so once that’s out of the way you’d think we had a clear run at it. But there are many who believe we should not have to think about Christmas at all until AT LEAST DECEMBER 1ST. I find this strange firstly because the way they carry on you’d think Christmas was some awful thing nobody liked rather than a fun occasion to look forward to, and secondly because I think these people must either have unlimited money and be able to buy all the gifts without planning or shopping around for deals, or they don’t really give much thought to what their family and friends would actually like.
    Also, Brown Paper FTW! After years of never having the correct gift wrap for the occasion I was attending I too have made the switch. I have 4 colours of baker’s twine to liven things up.

  12. We began listening to Christmas music on Wednesday this week. No reason except we wanted to. There is no such thing as too much celebrating Christmas!

    1. Completely agree! It’s not like it’s some terrible time we all have to endure, after all, it is actually supposed to be fun!

  13. “The truth is, I want to do these things. This season is joyful. And I love the work of making magic happen. ” YES! Me too! That’s why I make the frosted Christmas Cookies whether or not the grandkids want to help. And I’m with you! I just asked Dave the other day if Halloween was too early to hang up my Christmas mugs.

  14. LOVE!!!! Totally sharing this AND putting on Christmas music, at 1 am, to fall asleep to!!!

Leave a Reply to Helen Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.