BARRETT: Ho-ho-hold off on holiday hype

Christmas lights are pretty - but why rush the season by putting them up before Nov. 11? Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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I’ve always been a proponent of waiting until after Nov. 11 to turn on Christmas lights.

With military history on both sides of my family, I’ve always been taught it’s a show of respect, and really, what’s 11 more days after Halloween to decorate? What’s so difficult about dedicating one day to those who gave their lives so we can have the freedom to choose to decorate for holidays and express ourselves?

For the first time ever, however, this year I’ve seen actual push back against waiting. I’ve seen people claim they’ve never once heard the idea it’s disrespectful (what rock are they living under?) and I’ve seen others cop the attitude they’re entitled to put up Christmas lights and turn them on the day after Halloween.

Is it necessarily disrespectful? Is there deliberate ill will from those who choose to do so? I doubt it (unless you’re  Laura Kaminker, the Ontario NDP candidate who said those who wear poppies are “brainwashed”). But why is there a need to rush the Christmas season?

It’s interesting to note this is largely a Canadian debate, which might explain why it flies under the radar and why there’s no real consensus on the matter. In the U.S., Nov. 11 – Veterans Day – is held before their Thanksgiving. A lot of people don’t dream of decorating two occasions ahead for Christmas – at least not quite to the same extent – especially given the Friday after American Thanksgiving is Black Friday, which marks the start of their Christmas holiday season.

In Canada, however, Remembrance Day is the last major occasion before Christmas, so we don’t have that added checkpoint, so to speak, to deter people from jumping the gun on the holidays, because Nov. 11 isn’t held in the same regard as the more fun holidays. There’s no real profitable marketing scheme to employ for Remembrance Day, so retailers even encourage people to get a jump on the season.

Now, as a society in general, we start our Christmas events earlier, and come the week before Christmas when people are most looking for Christmas activities, there are none.

In Central Alberta, the Light Up the Night festivals are all held between Nov. 14 and Dec. 1. Ongoing shows, Christmas concerts wrap up by mid-December, and so by the time we get to the week before Christmas, there’s few, if any, events left.

People start to get grouchy and irritable because they’ve been listening to carols for a month and a half. They’ve been inundated with the same Christmas messaging for four to six weeks. They begin to moan about the season, and how they can’t wait for it to be over.

And the poor students who haven’t had time to enjoy the lead-up to Christmas because of school, don’t have festivities to enjoy without the pressure of homework and tests, and if they try, their experiences can be cheapened and made miserable by non-students around them.

I’ve been in that position, and it’s fair tragic to feel more in the Christmas spirit a month out from Christmas than just two weeks beforehand.

Forget the disrespect side of the debate – we’re actually devaluing the Christmas season and lessening the magic it should come with. It’s like Cadbury Mini Eggs – they used to be fun when they only came around at Easter, and now they’re available year round and the novelty is gone. It’s not a special Easter item, it’s just another candy-coated chocolate like Smarties and M&M’s.

Christmas becomes tired in the same way.

Maybe it’s time we decide as Canadians to just wait 11 days more to turn the Christmas lights on – and if we must turn lights on, maybe only turn on purple ones to draw attention and awareness to Family Violence Prevention Month, and add the other colours post-Remembrance Day ceremonies so that message isn’t completely lost in holiday hype, either.