“Shall I put some Christmas decorations up now, Mummy?”
My daughter has just put the Halloween decorations away in a box to be stored in the cellar till next October. She’s acquired quite a collection of plastic pumpkins in her seven years, each with a different feature – a ghoulish laugh, an integral torch, a battery-powered spooky judder. It made a surprisingly cheering montage in our front window.
Since Laura was tiny, we’ve enjoyed making seasonal displays that can be seen from the front path, echoing our house’s past as the village post office with a permanent shop window. Now that there’s a post-Halloween void, she’s itching to fill it.
“Wait until after Guy Fawkes Night,” I plead, taking a rare opportunity to dust and polish the bare windowledge.
Obediently, she potters off, humming a Christmas carol. I’m unwilling to fast-forward my thoughts to December, but I realise I’m unlikely to gain much of a stay of execution. We’ve already had to pack our Christmas shoeboxes for school and the Nativity Play has been cast.
“I’m going to be Mary!” piped up an excited voice as a throng of infants headed out of school on Guy Fawkes Night.
I appreciate their teachers need a long run-up to the festive season, to be sure that the children know all their lines in time. I just wish I didn’t feel compelled to rush in to December when November has barely begun. As it is – whoosh! not only will November hurtle by, but in no time at all 2010 will be a thing of the past, and we’ll be giving a nostalgic sigh each time we remember to write 2011 on a cheque.
What we really need is a late November festival to act as a brake on the speed of the year. Harvest Festival is long over, but there are still some leaves on the trees – why not an Autumn Leaf Fest to mark the baring of the skeletal trees, victims of the late November winds? Or a Winter Warmer Day, when everyone finally accepts that there is no Indian summer around the corner, stashes their cotton clothes in the back of the wardrobe, and dons their thermals for the first time. Or a pre-Christmas Purge, chucking out the old toys that haven’t been played with since last Christmas Day, clearing the decks ready for this season’s excesses. Any of these could fuel Laura’s passion for window displays and hedge off the onslaught of Advent.
How I envy the Americans their Thanksgiving Holiday – perfectly placed to fill the void between Guy Fawkes Night and Christmas. Would it seem churlish to celebrate it here too, as if we were glad to get those pesky Puritans off our soil?
Perhaps we can engineer an acceptable alternative of our own. After all, we have plenty else to be thankful for. And acknowledging our blessings might also serve to constrain the unnecessary excesses of the modern Christmas.
Happy November, everyone!