Where Has Our Autumn Gone? by Jean Marie Keenan-Johnston

Christmas has ALWAYS been my favorite holiday!  Some of my most cherished memories are those of my family and my uncle’s family sitting around the Christmas dinner table…a makeshift banquet table created by linking up my aunt and uncle’s dining room table to two card tables so we spilled out the dining room and into half their living room.  My uncle was also my godfather, and the relationship we had was something really special from as young as my toddler days.   Christmas was one of the few times I had that could be dedicated to just enjoying time with him, my aunt and my cousins.  Even as a young child, Christmas was more than presents to me.  It was about tradition, celebration and family.  I loved every bit of celebration that came with the holiday, but my favorite activities were definitely the ones all about spending quality time together.

So it makes perfect sense when I say I told my husband “watch out, it’s like elves exploded around me” when we met during our first holiday season.  Hearing that, you might think I’m almost addicted to everything Christmas.  Part of you would be right…I do in fact LOVE everything Christmas!  I love the baking, I love the decorating, I love finding that perfect gift for each of my loved ones!  Now that I’m a mom, I also love sharing all of those activities and more with my children.  Baking cookies with my girls and making craft upon craft upon craft to hang around the house as decorations is what I’ve waited for the entire time I was wishing and praying for the family I always dreamed of as a child.  The Christmas season is possibly when life feels the most perfect to me.  I look forward to its arrival every year…


Not November.  Not October.  DECEMBER!

Where has our Autumn gone?  I’m only 42, so when I say “I remember the days”, it really isn’t that far back. It’s not like I’m talking about the turn of the century or something like if my grandmother was the one speaking.  I remember growing up, Halloween was distinctly Halloween.  As kids we chose our costumes, counted down the days through the month of October, and when evening came on Halloween night, we roamed the neighborhood trick-or-treating eager to fill our bags higher than the year before.  The only talk of Christmas may have been some early discussions about what was going on our letters to Santa.  The stores weren’t yet playing Christmas carols.  There weren’t any ads on TV yet for holiday sales.  And when Thanksgiving came a month later, EVERYBODY was with their loved ones enjoying a family dinner after a day of parades and football.  The stores were closed, and the only plans for shopping were scheduled for early the next day when Black Friday officially started on FRIDAY.  In fact, except for 7-11 and a handful of restaurants, everything was closed.  Grocery stores, the malls, other retailers were all closed so their employees could spend the holiday with their families just like I was spending the holiday with mine.  For some, Thanksgiving was the official start of the Christmas season.  That was the weekend when lights and other decorations went up.  Some families even put up their Christmas trees that weekend.  Others waited knowing they still had plenty of time to get all that finished.

Fast forward to our time…while there have been some pretty cool advances in the last thirty or so years (I mean, how many of us look at the Toys R Us catalogues our kids sit with circling everything they see and say to themselves “Why weren’t toys this cool when I was little?)  I think when it comes to the Christmas season, things have gotten a bit sad in some ways.  This isn’t just about the commercialism many complain about.  It’s beyond that.  It’s about the Christmas candy I watch retailers display before the Halloween stock is taken from the shelves.  And it can’t be taken from the shelves because as they’re putting Christmas candy out for display, people are still buying the Halloween candy since Halloween is still days away.  It’s about the Facebook posts I saw reporting Christmas carols playing on the radio and in the stores the very day after Halloween, November 1st.  It’s about the fact that Thanksgiving seems to be glossed over as more and more stores are switching their holiday sale starts from Black Friday to Thanksgiving night. 

I’m sure I’m not alone when I ask where has our autumn gone.  In this age of families separating with divorce, the need to have both parents working, and other challenges to family togetherness, I personally think as a nation we should be moving in a direction that puts MORE emphasis on Thanksgiving rather than just making it about dinner before a shopping spree.  I’m trying to teach my children about the importance of being thankful for all our blessings, and I feel like the push to have the Christmas season start earlier and earlier goes against those efforts, especially since that push seems to be tied in very strongly to dollars and cents.  It almost feels as if Halloween gets more attention than Thanksgiving since children are totally focused on their costumes and candy only to turn all their attention to their lists for Santa very soon after.  I don’t think it’s old-fashioned of me to feel this way.  I have friends and family who are a lot younger than I am who have the same complaints.  I guess it all boils down to priorities.  Hopefully as the years go by and society continues to do its part to chop away at the holiday known as Thanksgiving, I’ll find I’ve done a great job sharing my views with my children so they’ll carry on the traditions of our family…the ones that center around creating a wonderful feast that’s shared with loved ones thankful to be together rather than going their separate ways before dessert even hits the table.