Ah, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That day when the anticipation finally starts to pay off, the food-drink-football-shopping hangover from Turkey Day and Black Friday has started to lift, and you can turn on some college football while pulling the ol’ Christmas lights and decorations down from the rafters to see what still works as you head into the home stretch of the holiday season.
It’s one of my favorite days.
But damn, 2020 is weird. Black Friday wasn’t really Black Friday. It was more like WiFi Friday. And Thanksgiving, for those of you who didn’t break the COVID-19 rules, was a bastardized version of the holiday.
Me and my family? We broke the rules. But only a little bit. Don’t tell Gavin Newsom.
So here I am, getting ready to climb up my ladder into the rafters, and I look around my neighborhood… and pretty much all the Christmas lights are already up, except mine. In fact, they have been up for a while, and I’m not just talking an extra week or so. There are always those eager beavers who toss holiday etiquette into the wind and put their stuff up a few days early, but this year, come Thanksgiving, I’m convinced I have neighbors who already need to change light bulbs and fuses on their front-yard displays.
This year, we have widespread defiance of the unwritten rules of Christmas. They’re kind of like the unwritten rules of baseball: They’re not official, but they’re there. Sign stealing is not technically illegal, but if the other team thinks your runner on second is hijacking the catcher’s signals to the pitcher, well, your next batter just might get plunked in the ear.
And home run celebrations? Keep them down to a dull roar. Don’t linger too long between first and second as you admire that moon shot you just belted past the cheap seats in the outfield. Get a move on, take your trot around the bases, get a couple high-fives from teammates and get your ass back in the dugout.
Can’t be showing up the opposing pitcher, because if you do, you know what happens on the next at-bat. That’s right. PLUNK!
Similarly — and, at the risk of being told I sound like I’m shouting “get off my lawn!” — the unwritten rules of the holiday season go something like this:
Don’t cheapen any of them by looking ahead too soon to the next. First, there’s Halloween. You shouldn’t be putting out Halloween decorations until at least Oct. 1. Any sooner, and you’re disrespecting the last wonderful, waning days of summer.
And, during October, there shall be no looking ahead past Halloween to Thanksgiving. So long as there’s a jack o’lantern on your front lawn, there damn well better not be one of those giant inflatable turkeys.
Once Halloween passes, wait a week, then you can awaken from your sugar coma and put out the Thanksgiving stuff, and start wondering when the supermarkets will have turkey and that awful canned cranberry that so many people seem, inexplicably, to like.
Thanksgiving comes. Enjoy it. Savor it. Sleep in the next day while your wife gets up at zero-dark-thirty and goes out to Black Friday.
Then, and only then, can you start the Christmas sprint to the end of the year.
2020? All of this, apparently, is out the window.
I started seeing Halloween stuff in stores, no joke, in August. Cripes. You shouldn’t be buying Halloween stuff while you can still swim without turning on the pool heater.
Then Halloween didn’t even get properly kicked off before people started looking ahead. No sooner had we handed out the last piece of socially distanced Halloween candy than we started seeing Christmas lights. I’m not joking. Halloween was Saturday. I saw Christmas lights on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving is over here like, “Helloooo! What am I? Chopped turkey liver?”
It’s as if, in 2020, we don’t have Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have Halthanksmas.
I’ve often worried that our holidays are going to blur together. So many years, it seems like the various “seasons” get started too early, leaping right into the next one before we’ve had a chance to properly savor the present one.
But in no year has this been so marked as it has been in 2020, and on some level, I suppose I get it: 2020 sucks. We want it to be over.
Perhaps if we put up the Christmas lights on November freaking 1st, it will hasten the end of the year. It’ll just happen faster. The Christmas lights are up, get that champagne on ice, the new year is nigh!
Or, it could be, we all just need a little joy in our miserable 2020 lives, and what better way to bring on the joy than to bring on an early beginning to what is arguably the most joyous time of year?
Still, I think next year, if we get a return to normalcy, that normalcy should include a return to the unwritten rules of the holidays: Properly observe each, in order, THEN move on to the next.
And if you don’t?
Tim Whyte is editor of The Signal.