It’s been a crazy summer where Dudley and I live: From a dearly loved relative having serious back surgery (rods and screws and nerve entanglements) to my own great grandson suffering a broken femur; from birthdays and anniversaries to just weekend dinners with the family, it’s been a rollercoaster emotionally and physically for all of us. Even Dud’s arthritis has been a constantly changing thing that shots and meds don’t seem to help. And now that autumn is finally upon us (well, this month, anyway) we are already seeing the further destruction of some of life’s greayest moments: The “holidays”.
Dud was waxing nostalgic about the childhood delight in Halloween recently. “I remember how you never really heard about Halloween (All Hallows Eve, as once it was called), until about the middle of October. Then parents let out gentle hints that it might be coming soon, and the memory of it slowly crept into your mind.” His eyes kind of glazede over. “CANDY! The forbidden luxury of it flooded your every waking moment. It was the most excruciating two weeks you could immagine: Waiting for it was as much a part of Halloween as the actual day: Costumes had to be planned to the last detail; the limits of the route you would follow had to be negotated with your mother in advance, so you didn’t (horror of horrors) get your candy taken for going beyond the boundaries!” Of course, he was talking about the days when kids walked the streets in little groups, extorting treats from strangers without the presence of parents looming over their shoulders. In those days, no-one worried about such things as lurking perverts or sick-os who put things in treats to harm kids.
“Hell”, Dud continued, “That store you work for actually had Reese’s pumpkin-shaped bars on display in mid-August. By the time Halloween rolls around that stuff will be stale as hell or just plain eaten up and you’ll have to buy more, anyway.” Of course, that’s become the point of all the hype over holidays: start early and double your sales! “Even those creeps at Starbuck (whom I used to admire) have already started serving the ‘pumpkin spiced’ abomination they hype every year. Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving and Christmas-associated treat, and they’re pushing it in September!” “And for my money, pumpkin is supposed to be in PIES, not coffee or cupcakes or (God help us) beer! I’ve seen everything from pumpkin donuts to pumpkin flavored milk, and it makes me want to puke!” Dud, of course, loves to be blunt, even though I have to admit I find pumkin pie milkshakes a bit much, myself.
“And there’s Christmas, itself! Do you know I’ve already seen 3 christmas trees in stores? Hell, Hallmark had their Christmas ornament catalogue on display by the end of July this year. And even grocery stores are pushing people to start their Christmas party planning early so they can buy the recipe ingredients early!” I had to admit my own employer has a sign out urging just that. In fact, I’m quite sure the grocery industry is scrambling as we (I) speak to come up with an acceptable replacement for the Thanksgiving turkey dinner. They’re selling turkeys for rediculously low prices, just to get the ball rolling on all those “fixin’s” they’ll sell to go with it. If they could find a new “tradition” to push, they might be able to offer more expensive sides and garnishes to go with it, and increase profits. And while there’s nothing wrong with increased profits, are we to accept loosing our traditions in favor of something “new”? So, too, is the drive to start the Christmas frenzy earlier every year:
“I remember when NO-ONE in the downtown (commercial) area was allowed to put up Christmas displays before Thanksgiving Day. We even made a family event out of going to Main Street and watching city workers decorate the street lamps and other tall objects with lights and Christmas decorations. That was the day AFTER Thanksgiving!” Dud was on a roll, and I remembered exactly what he was talking aout. There were several major department stores on that street, all of which would unveil elaborate Christmas displays in their large front windows on Thanksgiving Friday (as we refered to it then). Now it’s called “Black Friday”, ironically describing Dud’s point with a name that actually refers to something quite different.
“I’m afraid that with Christmas decorations showing up in September, and holiday music playing from October to December to inspire shoppers to get fired up, we’ll find everyone pretty much sick of the season long before the event (Christmas) arrives.” I’m afraid Dud is right in that. After all, nowhere in these lines has the significance of All Hallows Eve; or of the national day of thanksgiving for the blessings we – as a nation – have received; or the greatest event in human history – the birth of Jesus Christ – had room to be mentioned, let alone considered.