At one point, I owned RespectTheTurkey.com and championed hard for NO Christmas before Thanksgiving. This is the story of how I changed my mind.
I was an assistant manager for Hallmark for a year right after college. The ornaments came out in the summer. From then through the clearance sales of all the merch in Jan, it was a solid 6 months+ of Christmas. As I came into adulthood, the Black Friday sales became a bigger and bigger “thing” that crept up earlier and earlier. The celebration of Christmas before Thanksgiving has long felt – to me- like a money grab and nothing more.
I mean, let’s be honest, that’s not an entirely untrue observation.
I was 100% serious about that RespectTheTurkey.com thing, y’all.
“Don’t mess with Thanksgiving!” I would rally. “Respect the turkey!” Don’t forget about it in your efforts to jump into the flashy, spendy, gilittery holiday that would consume us and encourage us to consume for the entire next month. Give Thanksgiving it’s due!
But lately there’s something more I’m seeing when I let that hard, red line I’ve drawn between one celebration and the next get a little soft, a little bendy.
Thanksgiving is my favorite, but Christmas is a very close, nearly-tied second. I can certainly get excited about embracing the Christmas spirit as soon as the turkey gravy-painted dishes are in the sink.
The thing about Christmas, though, is it stresses me out.
Brought a baby home on Christmas Eve. Do not recommend. No stars. Thumbs down. Don’t have sex in March. (OBVIOUSLY I LOVE THE LITTLE GUY AND WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING- IN CASE YOU’RE NEW HERE.)
There is A LOT to get done in that little bit of time, even when that time starts the minute we drop our fork on our pie plate next to the half-eaten crust we simply can’t make room for. We all know the last 3 months of the year move to their own time-warp-disco drum. Add parenting and working in an industry that goes HARD for Q4, and December can feel like one long peppermint-scented panic attack.
Over the last two years, our family has gone through a transformation as we intentionally shook ourselves out of our comfortable routines (starting by selling our house, buying an RV and traveling the US & Canada), and re-evaluated what our priorities are. We’re still processing what we learned from our time on the road together, but something that broke loose early on and rose to the top was SLOWING DOWN.
In order to slow down, you either have to get less done or cover less ground in the amount of time you give yourself OR you have to give yourself more time to get the stuff done and go as far as you need to.
Sure, there are some holiday tasks and traditions we could cut out in that 4 week window to make December less hectic and stressful. And that’s exactly what we did in the past. Elf On The Shelf (the thing that arguably made me internet famous) stopped about 4 years ago for us because it wasn’t something I had the time to focus on. Baking didn’t happen often. Decorations got less elaborate during hectic years.
But the thing is, those aren’t tasks to cut off from a pointless to-do list. Those are all things we actually enjoyed as a family in the past. We simply didn’t have time for them in that 4 week window when we tried to slow down.
And all of this for what? To protect a holiday that, for our family, is less about the myth Thanksgiving was built on* and more about the spirit of what Christmas means to us– being together with family.
*I’ve done a lot of re-learning as an adult, and the nice “pilgrims and Native Americans having dinner together” story we were fed as children is something worth dissecting and examining again. Here are some articles to get you started if you’re interested.
So what if we let ourselves begin to prepare for and, yes, even celebrate Christmas before Thanksgiving? What could that look like for our family?
1. It definitely doesn’t erase Thanksgiving from the picture. There are still turkeys and lists of what we’re thankful for. Thom The Turkey wreath can hang on the door for November, and maybe also we have our tree up? Maybe it’s just up and the ornaments go on that night. Maybe we mash all this up and we hang curls of paper to the tree before Thanksgiving on which we’ve written and drawn what we’re thankful for. Ohhh, I like that.
2. This extended window of time isn’t a challenge to pack in MORE. It’s an invitation to slow down and find quality time for the traditions we enjoy. We could actually relax and enjoy the decorations if we give ourselves more time to get them up. We could find time to bake the week before Christmas if the cards have already been sent and Santa’s already been visited.
3. This is not about spending, but perhaps this is a better way to spend thoughtfully. The psychology of a sale is based on a sense of urgency. Would we buy as much without thinking if things didn’t feel so rushed and urgent? I know many people shop for the holidays year-round and say it’s the best way to stick to a budget. Maybe giving myself an extra month, to start, will help.
It was lovely when I had the energy to get annoyed at Christmas encroaching on Thanksgiving. That’s not sarcasm.
In 2019, there are so many other things that keep me up at night, worried, anxious, and mad. I don’t have it in me to let early tree-decorating be one of those. And while I will kindly ask that my family holds off on Christmas music all day for a bit longer (because that’s really what brings back those endless-retail-holiday memories), I think we’ll start gathering our decorations soon.
If you see me post a picture to Instagram of our tree up before Thanksgiving, I promise I haven’t stopped respecting the turkey! I’m just inviting him to Christmas.