*October 2013 hadn’t been here a week, when I heard my first Christmas carol of the season. It wafted in from the sidewalk early afternoon via a female voice singing a jubilant stanza of “Deck The Halls.”
Peering out my kitchen window to see who was bold enough to sing Yuletide tunes in 80-plus degree Southern California weather in October, I glimpsed a merry middle aged woman pushing a stroller with a toddler onboard. She didn’t appear to be singing for the amusement of the kid, who sat impassively. No, this was simply a woman ready for the holidays.
So am I. Which is why I am in love with fall.
While its shorter days, chilly weather and leaves changing color may be viewed by some as hallmarks of a melancholy existence, fall has the magical distinction of being gateway to the best holidays of the year. Fall itself hosts one of the most important of these days, Thanksgiving. Of course, being born in October might also have something to do with my inherent affection for this time of year.
The season kicks off with Halloween, which, unless you’re a witch, warlock or ghoul, I wouldn’t call a legitimate holiday. Its dark origins notwithstanding, Halloween and Trick Or Treat—the dressing up, the parties, the over-the-top adornment of the local IHOP–are the clarion call to time-honored festivities to come. This year, I don’t intend on letting a second of fall or the ensuing holidays escape my whole hearted appreciation. Not this year. Not ever again.
When I was a child, there was no chance of that happening. I was convinced calendars were invented solely for counting down the days to fall—officially September 22—and the holidays proper. To a kid, that delicious period of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve can seem to last forever, which is never long enough.
When you’re an adult, it’s different. Life is crammed with raising kids, making a living, staying healthy and meeting the general challenges of each day. Holidays that once resembled an epic amount of time now seem like weeks. When was the last time you heard a youngster, with a measure of indignation, quip, “I can’t believe it’s the holiday season already!” That’s a mantra uttered exclusively by grown ups.
And, as a certified grown up, I’m determined to savor every day of this. A great philosopher—well, okay, Jermaine Jackson—once mentioned that we “only have about 30 Christmases left.” He told me that ten years ago. I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow any more holidays to sneak up on me and just kind of slip by. No sir. I’m going to inhale every hour.
I’d advise those of you reading this to do likewise. You can’t consider details of your Thanksgiving dinner too soon. Those early Christmas TV ads and store decorations you usually find annoying? Just go with it. Because, within a twinkling, it’ll be morning, 2014. And then spring, then summer and then, before you know it, you’ll hear somebody on the street anxious for some official joy, singing Christmas carols in September.
This is usually when people find it in their hearts to care just a little more. There’s no harm in finding that spirit early. Like, right now. In a variety of ways, this year has been particularly nasty and hateful. To be sure, the business of compassion and goodwill has its work cut out. Lord knows we can use some gladness. Let the loving begin.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected]