Which came first: the turkey or the tree?

The holidays are here! But it seems to be increasingly less clear - or at least more debated - which holidays should be celebrated when. 

Growing up, holidays weren't as extended as they are today, at least not in my family. Halloween didn't involve much more than carving pumpkins a few days before and trick-or-treating the night of. Thanksgiving was always limited to the festivities that day, including watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and going to Grandma's house for the traditional turkey dinner. Christmas was the biggest affair, with parties and little traditions throughout the month of December. Even so, my family never put up the Christmas tree or started listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. I remember feeling especially rebellious one year when I got out the box of Christmas CDs halfway through November.

These days, the holidays seem to last from October 1 to January 1. All of October is dedicated to spooky season, with elaborate Halloween decorations, haunted houses, trunk-or-treat events, parades, and more. Christmas season seems to start immediately after Halloween ends, with carols filling the air, trees and lights going up, and local events like the Holiday Business Showcase (complete with a visit from the Clauses) happening even before Thanksgiving has come.

Thanksgiving itself, though, doesn't get the same treatment. It typically remains a one-day holiday, not a season. To be fair, it's not like people usually have specific Thanksgiving decorations, music, or parties.

Still, many people are bothered by the Christmas season pushing its way into November, saying it overshadows and distracts from Thanksgiving itself. They argue all Christmas festivities should wait until after Thanksgiving.

Turkeys before trees, you might say.

I understand this opinion and respect those who choose to split their holiday season this way. Personally, however, I disagree.

I love Christmas, and I think December just isn't enough time to enjoy all the festivities. There's so much music to listen to and so many movies to watch. Putting up lights, trees, and decorations is a lot of work, and I like having more time to enjoy them before having to pack them away again. And with so many parties and events to go to, it's nice to be able to spread them out a little more.

But one of the main reasons I'm perfectly happy with having Christmas in November is because I don't actually believe it's taking anything away from the celebration of Thanksgiving. In my mind, they go hand in hand and they both can and should be celebrated side by side.

Putting these holidays together means we celebrate thankfulness for what we have at the same time as practicing generosity in giving to others and being thankful for what we receive. Both holidays center around family, friends, and faith. (And, let's be real, both involve delicious food. My best friend said Thanksgiving dinner is basically a prep run for Christmas dinner. She's not wrong.)

With that said, the most important thing to remember about celebrating the holiday season is simple: do what you want, and let others do the same.

If you want to focus on Thanksgiving by waiting to do anything Christmas-related, go for it. If you want to be in all-out Christmas mode November 1 (or earlier), go for it.

If you don't celebrate these holidays at all, celebrate your holidays that fall during this wintry part of the year openly and joyfully, and consider sharing your culture with others who will be able to appreciate and honor it.

But as you do whatever brings you joy in whatever way you celebrate the holidays, be sure to let others do what they want without judging their intentions or telling them they're doing it wrong.

One of the most beautiful things about the holiday season is the concept of being more joyful and kind, so let's honor that spirit, whatever it looks like.


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