Thursday was Halloween, the day of orange and black, ghosts and spiders, and a frightening warning that must not be ignored: You are way behind preparing for Christmas.
Do not lament the glimmering first appearances of lights and trees in stores around July 4. Anyone worth their homemade caramels knows that putting on a good old-fashioned holiday celebration is a lot of labor. And it can’t be done in a panic at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve or the first night of Hanukkah in Walgreens, though that sacred ritual has its place.
No life hack will allow you to fully relish the season if you don’t put in the time. And this year, the calendar poses an extra challenge. The holiday shopping season, which retailers define as the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, is the shortest possible, just 26 days in 2019, down from 31 in 2018. At least Hanukkah falls late: It begins Dec. 22, but other years can arrive as early as November.
Deny and delay if you must. But please spare those who sensibly toil in advance from your whiny complaints about seasonal creep.
When you waltz into someone else’s welcoming, beautifully decorated holiday house, snowflakes glinting in your hair and a bottle of wine under your arm, do you appreciate that your host bought gifts all summer, deep-cleaned the carpet in September, scheduled the chimney sweep in October and replenished their spice rack and baking shelf in November?
Some far-flung families celebrate the December holidays when they gather for Thanksgiving, so their deadline for holiday gestures falls that much earlier. If they found time to wrap gifts on Columbus Day, using the plaid wrapping paper they bought while shopping for school supplies in August, who are you to judge? Charity gifts for children and other such programs tend to have early due dates, too.
Styled photos for holiday cards or Instagram posts are best shot well in advance. And there’s always a difficult-to-find toy or demanding trend of the moment, like finding matching plaid pajamas for the entire extended family, plus the dog and cat. When money is tight, planners still start early, to spread out the expense of extra purchases.
Only after all this dizzying preparation does December itself arrive, not only bringing the actual festivities but also year-end deadlines at the office and in personal finance. At this point, the season is already won or lost. The unprepared will be trampled by stress, crowds, expense and lost opportunity. The well-organized will be curled up in front of a holiday movie while deciding that yes, they do have time to buy a few extra gifts for children in need.
Granted, you can reasonably reject some or even most holiday commercialism. But probably not all of it. If you don’t do much of the prep work for the season yourself, you are likely reaping the rewards of someone else doing it for you, and you should become woke enough to notice. Those pecans didn’t sugar themselves.
So for the love of the Grinch, let the holiday-obsessed prepare in peace. As you nibble your zombie Halloween candy, consider that even if you aspire to enjoy even a fraction of all this warm and spendy holiday goodness, the best time to start is — yesterday.