Friday, November 25, and the holiday season is upon us. Not just stores stocked with Christmas decorations in October that annoy everyone because it’s too early and for goodness sake Halloween isn’t even here yet. But the official Thanksgiving is over and you’ll have no peace until January 2.
When did the day that was almost officially known as the Day After Thanksgiving become Black Friday? As I look at what is going on around me, I am going to play prophetess and predict that the holidays as we knew them are changing.
Not that this is unusual. I think back to a few years ago, when I was writing a story on holiday traditions. Christmas, that big juggernaut of a holiday that pretty much crushes all the others, was almost from the get-go a repackaging of the Romans’ Saturnalia. The Greco-Roman gods may have given way to Christianity but that didn’t mean the partying had to stop. As the Church relentlessly expanded into Europe, it incorporated pagan traditions such as decking the halls with boughs of holly, which was handed down from the Druids, who held sacred certain plants such as holly and mistletoe.
As for the “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in medieval Europe, people did indeed celebrate for twelve days. And I mean celebrate, with plenty of feasting, drinking, wenching and general debauchery.
After the Reformation, the Protestants frowned upon the aforementioned Christmas activities and the holiday in Britain and America became a lot less festive.
While Thanksgiving was celebrated on and off in America since its Plymouth inception, it was Sarah Hale, the editor of Boston Ladies’ Magazine and Godey’s Lady’s Book who campaigned endlessly through her editorials for the establishment of a national holiday to give thanks.
Thanksgiving started off on the right foot. It was a uniquely American holiday. It could be celebrated by any American, regardless of their religion. And it gave you reason to have a big meal and reserve Christmas for more spiritual thoughts.
But while Sarah was championing Thanksgiving, her own Godey’s had already begun running illustrations of Christmas trees, which Queen Victoria had popularized in Britain in the 1840s. Moore had written “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” and Thomas Nast was drawing Santa Claus. The famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial ran in the New York Sun in 1897. Christmas was on its way to becoming the behemoth it is today.
What’s next? We already know Chanukah went through its own embellishments, even merging at times with Christmas to become Chrismukkah. There’s also Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, Ramadan, Diwali, Winter Solstice, and Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.
All valid, but here is my prediction: Thanksgiving and Christmas will one day merge into one holiday. Here’s how we’ll celebrate: everyone will gather around for their Thanksgiving meal, lie down comatose for a few hours, and then all gather before midnight to attend not midnight mass but to get on line to brave the crowds and hunt down bargains. After several hours of this, we’ll finally return home with our loot, which we’ll happily wrap and … wait for it… rather than hide it until Christmas, we’ll all exchange presents then and there! Why sit around for another month making yet another set of holiday plans? Heck, maybe Halloween will disappear to also become part of this celebration—everyone will dress up in costumes and pack up eggs, shaving cream and pepper spray, the better to attack, subdue and demobilize competing shoppers.
Combining the holidays into what we could perhaps call Hallowgivingmas is certainly more efficient than celebrating them separately. Maybe then we could get a little more going on in spring and summer. Anyone for May Day and Midsummer Eve?
So what did I do on Black Friday? I didn’t leave the house. Instead, I got an email from one of my favorite sites, Fontcraft, for 30 percent off any of their gorgeous font and art collections.