McKeithan Column

Published 2:16 am Friday, October 3, 2008

By Staff
Changes to holiday calendar afoot
(Thanksgiving will not be affected)
Cooler nights, football games and my allergies tell me that fall has arrived and I have no choice but to welcome its arrival.
Labor Day has passed and we prepare now for the next big holiday. Pumpkins are being harvested, haunted houses are being decorated and candy is being squirreled-away for that most-exciting October holiday … Christmas.
Halloween is quickly becoming as irrelevant as President Bush. Its value as depleted as my 401(k) account. At the risk of sounding like a Baptist preacher, this holiday should be stricken from the calendar entirely. Halloween is just not the same.
There was a time when “Trick or Treat” had some meaning. We kids were content to Halloween in our own neighborhood. We didn’t have store-bought costumes, either. We used imagination to conceal our true identities. (Apparently, my imagination was limited, because I dressed each year as a hobo.)
We didn’t always get a treat. I remember going to our neighbor, two doors down and getting a “trick.” How thrilled I was to dig into my bag and find a used toothbrush wrapped in aluminum foil. (Yep, true.)
Nowadays, kids are carpooled to “nicer” neighborhoods where treats abound and ne’er a trick can be found. I miss tricks. I don’t know if the Pierfoy family was having fun with us, or if they just didn’t like the McKeithan twins. I suspect the latter, and that’s OK.
There are five fewer days between Christmas and Thanksgiving this year than last, so retailers will bombard us with commercialized “Christmasness” much earlier than usual — probably tomorrow. Whether we like it or not, Christmas season has arrived. It begins earlier and earlier each year as retailers seek to spur sales with specials and incessant, annoying, kitschy “Christmas” music.
Let’s replace Halloween with a new tradition so our kids won’t be disappointed. We should acknowledge what we all know to be true: It’s Christmas time. We’ll formally recognize this fact by counting down the 56 days of Christmas on what was formerly Halloween. Children will go house-to-house in their neighborhoods singing (approved) Christmas carols, in exchange for candy.
(I’ve noticed this about Christmas caroling: The same men who never dance, also never “carol.” I am one of these men. Therefore, my beautiful wife and kids can enjoy visiting and entertaining; I’ll stay at home and pass out candy.)
Call me a traditionalist, but I suggest a grass-roots movement to ban any “Holiday” song written after 1900. Let’s enjoy the peaceful, pastoral songs that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas and renounce those that honor reindeer, snowmen, bells or chestnuts. (What’s a chestnut, anyway? Never had one.)
The lone exception — OF COURSE — would be Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, which became an instant classic, and rightfully so. (This tune will now be running through your head all day, and you have me to thank for it.)
(You’re welcome.)
Don’t forget the decorations. It’s Christmas; the time of year to show your neighbors how tasteless and tacky you can be. Be the first to blow up the giant snow globe (as temperatures hover in the eighties) and cover the entire surface area of your house with a strung-light display, visible from space!
Hang the mistletoe, pour the eggnog, shop till you drop, and put on your favorite Christmas sweater. ’Tis the season and you don’t want to miss out!
Or, we could take a different approach altogether. We could revert to the simpler days of a bygone era when we celebrated the reason for Christmas with reverence and grateful praise.
I remember as a child, sitting by the fire in the den for warmth — because we didn’t have electricity — enjoying the togetherness of family. I was so excited about the hand-carved toy train, my only Christmas gift. I didn’t feel deprived in any way. (Wait — that was my Grandpa’s story. But you get the point.)
It may be crazy for me to say, but I don’t think the true meaning of Christmas will be found at Wal-Mart. I can’t keep pace with the hustle and bustle that has become the season — and don’t understand why others try.
I’ve gotten carried away — forgive me. I have no place to be judgmental.
I must admit I am not the best example of Christmas cheer, for anyone. Sadly, my attitude leans more toward Ebenezer Scrooge than Tiny Tim during the season.
I am not proud of that fact, and hope to find the true Christmas Spirit in me.
I SHOULD be one who prefers to give than receive. But, truth be known — receiving works for me. I’m selfish and inconsiderate, and deeply flawed.
(Just ask my beautiful wife.)
I suspect someone will read this column and give me a Christmas gift that I truly deserve. It will, no doubt, be wrapped in aluminum foil and shaped suspiciously like a toothbrush.
Ray McKeithan is associate publisher of the Washington Daily News. If you have any questions or comments about column topics or content and operations at the WDN, please send an email to: or call 252-940-4205.