It was barely piercing through the crackle and fuzz, but there it was.
One week ago, on Nov. 3, I was driving west on SC 378, heading from my home in Lexington toward Abbeville, on the way to see my Mom for her birthday. It’s a route I’ve taken so many times now I legitimately think I could probably do it blindfolded. Still, it’s a picturesque drive, with the two-lane road cutting through mile after mile of soaring pines and oaks, and untold acres of rolling green farmland and hayfields.
As we rolled down the highway somewhere near Lake Murray, I reached over to the car radio and started toggling through some stations, eventually landing on 98.9 FM out of Greenville. Because of where we were at the time, the station wasn’t coming in very clearly, but through the static came the familiar lines: “Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Prospero año y felicidad.”
It was, of course, Jose Feliciano’s classic 1970 hit, the one where the Puerto Rican singer wishes us, again and again, a Merry Christmas from the bottom of his heart. And it was playing on the radio on Nov. 3, three days after Halloween. It seems 98.9 had already launched its annual marathon of Christmas music. The Upstate station will be playing holiday tunes for two solid months.
But here’s the thing: That seems to have become the new norm. I swear the “Christmas season” has been creeping earlier and earlier each year, and at this point we seem to celebrate it for all of November and December.
Poor Thanksgiving has, I believe, finally thrown up the white flag. It’s been consumed, overrun, steamrolled. Oh sure, we’ll still recognize it in a few weeks, and enjoy our turkey and football and watching the Macy’s parade. Thanksgiving still exists. But culturally it has, essentially, become a part of the larger Christmas season.
I think if Christmas could push in even earlier it would, but Halloween’s a tough barrier. Thanksgiving shares a lot of the same aesthetic qualities with Christmas — food, family, gatherings — so it was a little easier for the Christmas season to swallow it up. Halloween is a different story, tonally. And so, Nov. 1 seems to be the new “unofficial, official” kickoff to the Christmas season.
And you know what? That’s OK with me. We live in divisive, often tumultuous times, and I think we all feel a little worn down by that. It seems like folks have been more willing the last few years to let in some holiday cheer, and the feelings that come with it, a little earlier.
So here we are. My daughter, particularly, is already running headlong into the season. Several days ago, the post office brought her favorite piece of mail she receives each year: the Target holiday toy catalog.
You don’t understand how much my daughter loves Target. She asks my wife and me to take her just about every weekend. Even if we respond, “OK, but we’re not getting anything,” she’s cool with it. “I just want to smell the Target air,” she’ll say. She’s Target crazy.
And she dives into the store’s Christmas toy catalog with ravenous fury each year. As soon as it arrives she grabs a marker and starts flipping through the pages, circling all the things she’d like Santa to load into his sleigh. She’s 11 this year, and I know we are nearing the end of this particular phase of her life. And I won’t lie to you: It’s got me feeling some kind of way.
So, yeah, I’m willing to let the holidays in a little early this year. There’s some egg nog in my refrigerator already, and my wife and I went to see the new movie “Last Christmas.”
And there’s a marked-up copy of the Target toy catalog sitting on our coffee table, reminding me of how fast it all goes by.