Monday, November 19, 2012

'Tis the season to get your ass in bed

Starbucks already has its Christmas cups out in November, even before Thanksgiving.  King Soopers (the western incarnation of Kroger, for my eastern readers) had its holiday decorations out right next to the Halloween candy in the clearance bin. Target is advertising that its Black Friday sales start at 9pm on Thanksgiving Day.  Seriously, Retail America: knock this shit off. Render unto Santa's what is Santa's, and render unto Thanksgiving, what is Pilgrims and other sanitized versions of America's founding.

The leaking of the holiday season into non-holiday parts of the calendar is part of a cultural problem noted by Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine and philosophical practitioners.  Starting in late June but becoming especially noticeable in late September and early October, the days grow colder and the daylight grows shorter and less intense. Deciduous trees lose their leaves, our plants start going dormant, woodland creatures start flying south and stockpiling food like they're preparing for a seasonal zombie apocalyse. By the time November comes, our bodies are trying to slow down to respond with these earthly changes...but we can't.  Our culture throws the two busiest, most physically busy and emotionally-charged holdays into a six-week span when we should be our most dormant.  December 21st--the shortest day of the year--is only a few days before Christmas Eve and Day, the two emotionally and physically busy days of the calendar year.  Who has time to celebrate the Winter Solstice with a single candle and a moment of quiet introspection?  I only have three more days to shop and cook OMG OMG OMG OMFG!!!

It's easy to point at our modern culture for this paradox of culture versus climate, but we forget that architectural progress has been crapping on human behavioral patterns for a little over 100 years now.  How easily we forget that by 1900, many large cities had widespread use of electric lights in both public and private buidings. Much of rural America finally got electricity during the Great Depression as part of one of the various public works projects in operation at the time. Even before television and the internet, electric lighting made it possible for people to stay up late and read, talk, dance, plot revolution, sew bloomers and lobby for women's suffrage, make moonshine...anything but sleep. Electric lighting plus central heat allows people to sit in separate rooms in the house and read, plot, etc. without having to interact with each other.  (Before central heat, everyone had to sit around the same fire and few candles for warmth and light.  Suckas.) If you no longer have to depend on a finite candle or the waning sun to tell you when it's time to go to sleep, then who will? is always open.

Our constant going and doing at the holidays isn't a product of Target and Starbucks, though they're not helping. This busyness and inability to slow down during the winter is a long time and several generations in the making.  Guy and I are doing our part this year by having turned down 50% of our holiday party obligations and by giving fuss-free gifts for Christmas. (If you're related to us and reading this, you're getting a gift card this year.  Deal with it.) The other part of unplugging at the holidays is harder, especially for me.  Work is so exhausting that most days I can only come home, eat dinner, and watch a couple of DVR'd episodes of Top Gear and Squidbillies, when what would probably be more fulfilling and replenishing is to eat dinner, work on my crafting and art projects, and go to bed at 8:45.  I'm going to try, though, to get away from electric lights and glowing screens as early as possible and to honor natural human rhythms.  Right after this episode of Top Gear, where they make amphibious cars....

1 comment:

Miss Kitty said...

Yayz! Plz 2 have a happy Thanksgiving!

I wish for a mass consumer revolt against retailers who start moving the Xmas stuff in October. The stores who put red-n-green crap out before the last float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has passed by the grandstand should see a 90% drop in overall my vision, people wouldn't buy a single thing from those stores.

Christmas Creep is bullshit, and I wish people would teach businesses a lesson. The bottom line is the only way many businesses ever learn. Why not teach them in a way they understand to leave the damn holidays where they belong? :-P