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Friday, November 28, 2014

What I've learned about the holidays...

So yesterday was Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming soon. Back in the olden days, well, let's say about 40 years ago, stores were closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I've noticed "opening creep".  

No so long ago Black Friday shopping started at 6:00 am Friday morning.   Then a few stores wanting to get the jump on the shoppers dollars started "Midnight Madness" with stores opening at midnight on Thanksgiving.   Then stores crept into the holiday itself opening Thursday evening at 6:00 or 7:00 pm, after dinner instead of football and games or sitting around on the sofa.  A friend of a friend classes this as running from the table with turkey and gravy still on your breath.   And now the stores are open "from 6:00 am on Thursday".   I have noticed they don't say, from 6:00 am on's probably a strategic marketing move.

As I watch the news, which I don't do very often, I see people fighting (like down on the floor in a department store brawling, with the police pulling them apart) over a flat screen TV.  There are others complaining that what was advertised as a Door Buster for today, was sold last night and "that's not right!"

Really??!!  What's it all about?

Growing up, it was about spending time with family. We'd rotate which house or tiny apartment had the honor of housing us for the celebration.   The size of the house, the amount of food (not that we ever ran out), the number of gifts didn't matter.

On the appointed holiday, the cousins would get up early and watch cartoons if we were at the Connecticut location, no cable at our house.  If we were celebrating at my parents home in upstate New York,  my brother and I kept an eye to the window so that we would know when they were just down the street about to turn the corner.   This was in the time before the cellphone so there was a carefully blended mix of anticipation and patience.   Many a snow storm, which would have halted travel for others was braved, sicknesses were ignored, just to make sure we spent the holidays together.

At Christmas, while everyone received gifts, we didn't go to extravagant measures, both because we weren't loaded and because that's not what the holiday was about.   The Super Mario Brothers, Nintendo, games and other things we "had" to have are gone. Either because we tired of them shortly, probably before the first set of batteries that we had to wait for had died or they became obsolete when newer, better games came about. One of ,my most prized gifts is an afghan my mom crocheted for me. I still have it now and use it, warm out of the dryer to hang out on my sofa.

I remember receiving toys that required batteries (and it was prominently displayed on said toy packaging), that didn't come with batteries, my parent must have forgotten (and yes we always knew that my parents purchased our gifts).  There was nowhere to go to get the batteries. Just about the only thing you could buy on a holiday was gas. The stores at the gas station carried minimal provisions and my parents were not going to spend $10 on a pack of batteries, so we waited.

We packed everyone into a 3 bedroom house with 1 full bathroom and a 1/2 bath in the basement or fought about couch space or floor space a someone's 1 bedroom apartment.   Cousins slept 3 or 4 to a bed, crossways or foot to head on a narrow sofa.  In fact I still nap across the bed, must be an innate nostalgia to sleep this way. Everyone got enough to eat, little fuss was made other than by my brother who didn't and still doesn't like whole berry cranberry sauce.  I don't remember any panic over what we'd cook or endless hours spent shopping for the perfect expensive gift and when my brother or I collected the mail from the mailbox, I don't remember any credit card statements.

So what have I learned?  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but for me it's about the time.