Every Thanksgiving in the United States, we gather together, count our blessings, and devour an autumnal feast. Some families take turns going around the table and saying what they are most thankful for. Typical responses include loved ones, successes, and “all this friggin’ turkey.” Oh, Uncle Chip, your non-racist jokes are always the funniest.
One overlooked reason to be thankful stretches beyond Thanksgiving and touches other holidays. It’s something that we all experience but no one ever talks about. It’s the crossing over from the time when people can complain about other people putting up Christmas decorations to when they can’t. Thanksgiving is that tipping point day. The Starbucks cups are red, Target is playing Rudolph over the PA system, and Halloween candy is 90% off.
This slow burn of complaining starts as soon as someone has the audacity to try to dust off the first reindeer of the season. Usually it’s Dominick the Donkey on a forgotten AM station that a Facebook friend tunes into while driving home. There’s the inevitable status update.
@HOT98.3 CHRISTMAS MUSIC ALREADY?! Are you kidding me? #humbug
Really? You’re surprised that out of thousands of radio stations, you found one that is playing Christmas music in October? I’m surprised there isn’t one playing Christmas music year-round. Heck, I’m surprised there aren’t two playing Christmas music year-round. There are stations for every type of music imaginable. Besides, Christmas music is awesome and, even if you don’t’ want to hear it, no one is making you listen, right?
I get that it can be annoying. The Holidays can drum up a lot of different emotions and seeing decorations up early can conjure up fears about gift buying, relative hosting, or that festive holiday depression that a lot of us sink into. The reminder that Santa Claus is coming to town when you still have uneaten Twizzlers with cartoon Draculas on them in the pantry can be a bit daunting.
The problem is that it’s not just the December holidays. Those grinching the loudest over gingerbread houses on sale at the supermarket in October are the same ones griping about how everyone else is bothering them by, well, liking things.
Whether it’s Pumpkin Spice in foods that no one is forcing anyone to eat or ice bucket challenges that no one is forcing anyone to do, critics around the world like to take issue with other people doing things that they might not do themselves. I get that eye-rolling reaction and have even felt it myself. It’s the over-the-top exasperated rants about what another person eats or enjoys that always confused me. Even in cases of humor, I can’t help but think, “This is a deeper issue for this person than just seeing snowmen next to the jack-o-lanterns.”
Now if you told me that there was a Pumpkin Spice brigade in off-orange jackets going door to door with ice buckets, candy canes, and rifles, you would have my sympathy. They’re not. You don’t like Pumpkin Spice. It’s not for you. Just like the Beastie Boys and Star Wars aren’t for me. They’re for other people. People are just being people. Let them enjoy it.
The first time I realized that this turned-up nose world view existed was long before the Internet. I was about eight and had just returned from McDonald’s where a Happy Meal had given me magical powers. I forget the exact details but the rickety toy I found in the box was a string attached to a plastic piece and it did a trick. I’m pretty sure it was about as amazing as I just made it sound.
I was playing with the kids who lived next door to one of my relatives – the most far-removed playmates a kid can have. They were random people I saw at random times and every time I saw them was possibly the last. Seth was around my age and his sister, Sally, was about two years older. She reminded me of Lucy from the Peanuts comics and had her friends over as she watched me demonstrating the magic of my Happy Meal. Then, she gave my new illusion her unbiased review.
Oh, you got one of those crappy things? Ugh.
She rolled her eyes and they all left the room. Seth and I stayed behind with the crappy thing I had gotten from McDonalds. It was a downer. I didn’t even like Seth.
I remember wondering how any kid could hate a McDonald’s toy. It was a paradox in my head. To an eight-year-old, getting McDonald’s on that rare occasion was like finding gold in the Need a Penny cup at 7-11. It was a wonderful thing that I enjoyed and, even though I was showing it off to someone else, she felt the need to make my Meal a little less Happy.
I’m going to be honest. I didn’t do the ice bucket challenge. I’m also pretty indifferent to pumpkin spice and when to put up mistletoe. I’m not the point, though. If it brings other people joy, why would I want to rally against it? I’ve had too many unsolicited offers of “that stuff is fake” from people who hear I watch professional wrestling to ever rain on your Pumpkin Spice Latte. Enjoy the magic show. I won’t spoil the end.
So go ahead. Dust off the tree, the menorah, and make way for the Elf on a Shelf. The turkey is gobbled and the pumpkins are mulch. You’re allowed to decorate. It’s OK now. To be honest, though, it was OK the whole time. You can do whatever makes you happy whenever it makes you happy so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. We all can.
And that is what I am most Thankful for.