Don't judge this columnist: Christmas lights already up — and on

Tuesday , November 14, 2017 - 5:15 AM2 comments

MARK SAAL, Standard-Examiner Staff

Yes, the Christmas lights are already up on our house. And yes, we’re turning them on each night.

But just so you know? I never thought we’d be doing something like this — not in a million years.

I’ve always been a dedicated foot soldier in the totally righteous War on Early Christmas. I’ve made no secret of the fact I consider it a character flaw that our society begins celebrating the season so early each year. And although the threshold isn’t the same for everyone — my mother, for example, felt like Dec. 10 was the proper time to start decking the halls, while my father always lobbied for Dec. 24 — I do believe that for most sane, thinking individuals the bridge too far is Thanksgiving Day.

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In other words, you don’t begin celebrating Christmas until AFTER the fourth Thursday in November. That means no Christmas tree, no Christmas music (I’m looking at you, FM100) and positively no Christmas lights until a good 18 hours after the little red timer button pops on the Butterball.

Incidentally, I do give retailers a pass on this whole early holiday business. As much as it pains me that Christmas displays begin going up in stores well before Halloween, I also understand it’s just business. Some retailers record fully one-fourth to one-third of their annual sales during the holidays, so one can hardly blame them for wanting to milk the season for all it’s worth.

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But for the rest of us? Jumping the gun on Christmas is nothing more than pure impatience in a society raised on instant gratification. And it’s getting worse.

Indeed, in our Farmington neighborhood, a handful of homeowners have already had their outdoor Christmas lights up and on for a couple of weeks now. And in my mind, as I’ve driven home from work in the growing darkness, I’ve been secretly judging them.

Until last Saturday, when my wife and I broke our own holiday embargo and began putting up Christmas decorations less than two weeks after Halloween. It’s our earliest start, by far.

Considering my long-stated position on “Christmas creep,” I feel like I owe you good people an explanation for what’s now going on in my own front yard.

It has everything to do with a grandparent’s love.

Last week, our 9-year-old grandson — who, with his brother, sister and parents have been living with us while they save up for a home of their own — required surgery. And in the days following that procedure, he was flat-out miserable. Not at all the talkative, rambunctious kid we’ve come to know and love.

On Saturday morning, just two days after the surgery, our grandson sat cuddling in my lap. And while he was clearly not feeling well, neither did his mama raise no fool. He’d seen the neighbors’ Christmas lights shining up the road, and he saw his opening.

“Grandpa,” he asked, looking up at me with big, sad eyes, “can we please put up the Christmas lights today?”

Ordinarily, such a request would have elicited a 45-minute crotchety old man lecture on the inherent evils of celebrating Christmas before we’d even gotten Thanksgiving out of the way. Not to mention an “Electricity doesn’t grow on trees, you know,” and even a “When I was your age” thrown in for good measure. But he was just so darned pitiable — and adorable — that all I could say was, “As you wish, grandson.”

Which is how I ended up on a ladder on an early November afternoon, draping lights around the house and yard. It seemed a small price to pay to make our patient feel just a little bit better. Plus which, turning on those lights Saturday evening brought one of the first smiles to our grandson’s face since his surgery.

When it comes right down to it, isn’t that what being a grandparent is all about? Bending rules. Undermining mom and dad’s authority. Spoiling. Kids. Rotten.

At least he hasn’t asked to listen to holiday music.

Of course, the neighbors who know what’s going on in our family have been fully supportive of our premature light display. But I’m also certain there are other neighbors who, not knowing our situation, are secretly judging us. And I’m surprisingly OK with that.

Besides, I figure we got off easy. Because, fortunately, our grandson doesn’t yet understand the great power he wields over the people two generations back. Why, I felt so bad for him after his surgery that if he were smart he’d have come to me last Saturday and asked, “Grandpa, can we open presents now?”

And Christmas Day would’ve come six weeks early.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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