The Second Half: Sneaky Santa: Holiday season seems to arrive earlier every year

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


Picking up the candy wrappers from our Halloween weekend, I heard an announcement that gave me chills: “Santa Claus is coming to the mall this weekend!”

For a minute, I thought I was experiencing one of those senior moments we love to talk about, like, “Oh, wow, I forgot to return my library book because I lost track of time,” or “Oh my gosh, is it Labor Day already? What happened to August?”

Did I miss November? Suddenly, I was experiencing a flashback, no drugs involved. It was last summer—helping put up our hay, I was climbing up on the wagon to hand the bales down to Hubby. The details are something of a blur because of a mild concussion, but I fell from the wagon into the barnyard, landing flat on my back. A rattled brain caused me to believe it was roughly a month earlier, unable to remember driving our horses in the Fourth of July parade or even our holiday cookout.

“Let’s get you inside, out of this heat,” Hubby said, graciously assisting me to the couch and finding me a cool drink. Given some time and conversation, the previous month’s events started coming back to me, and I remembered it was August.

Wait, where was I? Oh, right…back to our Halloween Santa announcement: “Did I miss Thanksgiving?” I grabbed Hubby in a panic and shock, “What day is it?”

Hubby extracted himself from my hysterical grasp, explaining, “No, dear, you didn’t miss anything…the mall is bringing in Santa the week after Halloween this year.”

I rushed to a friend who works in retail, asking, “What gives?”

“Look around,” she gestured. “The stores are getting traffic, but sales are way, way down. We need that Christmas spirit to boost the economy!”

Hmmm…never make the mistake of equating my “Christmas spirit” with draining my bank account. The economy is in the crapper for many of us in our Second Half of life, but I kind of enjoy the challenge of being more creative around Christmas giving. I come from a time when gifts were often homemade, such as terrific goodies from the kitchen.

“DON’T!” Hubby responded when I suggested calling the family with that idea. “Make your own gifts if you want, but don’t force everyone else to join in. Besides, working 60 hours a week, when will you find the time?”

He’s got a point.

I looked around my house with a critical eye—the place still smacks of late summer (outdoor grilling paraphernalia piled next to my motorcycle helmet on the sideboard) and early fall (pumpkins and dried leaves mixing with dust bunnies in the corners of the rooms). “Is it already time to decorate for Christmas?”

Lucky me—I bought a wreath months ago during a school fund-raiser, to be delivered around Thanksgiving. At least it’s a start…wait, what about Thanksgiving?!

“Thanksgiving and Christmas colors…well, if you decorate with red and gold,” Hubby suggested, “it works for both holidays and we can use the stuff we already have. Right?”

“Amazing,” you may be thinking. “How clever of him!” Don’t give him too much credit—I was holding a gold tablecloth, gold candlesticks, and red candles when he said it.

Just to verify this paradigm shift, I put in a call to my friends at Williams’ Christmas Tree Farm on Yale Bridge Road in rural Rockton. “We are opening earlier this year,” said Stacy, office manager and expert in all things tree farm. “Opening Day at the Tree Farm is Saturday, Nov. 14.”

I know the Williams’ teamsters are already warming up their horses, getting them in shape for the long days of wagon rides into the woods, taking customers in search of the perfect tree. Over the past week, I have watched the transition from Pumpkin Daze at the farm to dressing for their big season, Christmas. I have the great fortune of living nearby, and over the years, our family and friends have both worked and played at the Williams’ family farm. It is a constantly changing and growing kind of place, with something new to offer each year.

Opening Day at Williams’ is fully two weeks earlier than previous years, likely because of public demand. Unlike some activities, this one is free (unless you purchase something). City folks come from all over the Midwest to ride the horse-drawn wagons and photograph the winter wonderland, then relax inside with some hot cocoa and their fantastic apple pie.

When I looked around, I was inundated with “early Christmas”: a thousand Ambrose commercials on television, Christmas shopping hours posted on department store doors, and the L.L. Bean holiday catalog arriving in the mail. Just like my memories of childhood, the holidays are blurring together, becoming a sort of “Thanks-mas” holiday shopping extravaganza and food fest.

“I don’t want Thanksgiving to be swallowed up in the new, improved Christmas shopping season,” I cried. “I like a holiday that focuses on gratitude!”

Nobody steals my Thanksgiving without a fight, I tell ya! So, here’s the plan:

RESIST! Be grateful for something, anything, every day, no matter how many shopping days until Christmas.

DECLARE! Greet everyone you see with a “Happy Thanksgiving!”—exclaim over all the things you are thankful for and include references to turkey and pumpkin pie in every conversation.

INVITE! Encourage others to share in your abundance during the Thanksgiving season, either by opening your doors or opening your wallet—lots of folks in their Second Half spend Thanksgiving alone.

INDULGE! Eat turkey and share with a friend.

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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