MARTHA SEZ: ‘Overwhelmed as I am, I love Christmas’

Holiday decorations were still being installed on Main Street, Lake Placid, this week. This photo was taken on Tuesday, Nov. 29. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

“Christmas is a coming, and it’s a jumping. Boy, it won’t be long.”

(Leadbelly, 1945)

Thanksgiving is over. It was wonderful. But Thanksgiving is not simply some big feast out in the middle of nowhere. No, Thanksgiving is the gateway to the Christmas season.

Oh yes, Thanksgiving is an important annual event in its own right, first enacted by Captain Shrimp and Squanto, and proclaimed a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln. Still, despite the travel time, prep work and clean-up, Thanksgiving is basically a pretty simple holiday, functioning primarily to usher in the Christmas season.

Some consider it more correct to use the term holiday season, in view of the fact that there are many winter holidays and holy days, and not just Christmas. Some even go so far as to call a Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” In reality, however, Christmas, in its religious, secular, social, historical, psychological, culinary and retail aspects, is overwhelmingly the most influential holiday in our lives here in the USA.

Christmas is huge. It is absolutely enormous. It will be coming soon and eating up all of our money and messing with our emotions and sucking up all of our air, and there is no sense pretending otherwise. What with Santa Claus and Amazon.com and stockings hung with care and all, it is Christmas that is coming to town.

It’s coming. You might still think that you have time to get ready. Maybe we can look the other way and ignore it for a little while longer. Right?

At our peril.

Overwhelmed as I am, I love Christmas. I find this time of year exhilarating. I get carried away. I spend money I don’t have. The buzzword so popular with educators and self-styled life counselors, “Make good decisions,” gnaws away at the edges of my festive mood and threatens to bring me down.

Was it, for example, a good decision to purchase the noisy pet toy I wrote about in last week’s column? Probably not.

It had no on-off button and was hair trigger, setting up a raucous bout of squawking every time it was jiggled. Worse, was it wise to send it quacking through the US Mail? I think not.

I texted my daughter in California.

“Is the little duck still quacking?” I asked.

“Yup,” was her reply.

If the irritating quacky duck toy is any indication, I fear that, once again, my decision-making will not be all that it should be this Christmas season.

When I was little I found it hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we children, along with our Chesapeake Bay retriever mix named Duck and whatever cats were around, were up early to open our stockings before the grown-ups came downstairs.

My mother’s parents, Rosie and Grandad, soon followed us downstairs and made us oatmeal or pancakes in the shape of gingerbread boys that I couldn’t eat. On Christmas I lost my appetite; I couldn’t get down much except for the orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking and a few chocolate coins, the kind that come wrapped in gold foil in little net bags. We had ribbon candy, too, and beautiful little hard candies that looked like Venetian glass beads.

Later, my parents would come down and watch us open our presents.

For me, Santa Claus was no big deal. For my daughter, Molly, it was a different story.

The Christmas Eve Molly was three, she wouldn’t go to bed. I wanted to hang the stockings and put the presents around the tree, and I couldn’t do it until I was certain Molly was sound asleep.

“You know, Santy can’t come and leave your presents until you’re asleep,” I told her. Then I learned the reason for her restlessness.

“I don’t want that little man comin’ down my chimney!” she stated vehemently. There were no two ways about it. She was adamant on the subject.

I had to spend the next hour or more talking Molly down from her adrenalin high, convincing her that there was no such thing as Santa Claus–no, really, Molly, no fooling, Santy is just pretend, like goblins and monsters–until she finally relaxed her vigilance and drifted off to sleep.

Discussing whether children should be taught to believe in Santa Claus is a good way to start an argument this time of year.

As Leadbelly sang, “Children get so happy on a Christmas day. Don’t forget it!”

Have a good week.

(Martha Allen lives in Keene Valley. She has been writing for the News for more than 20 years.)

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