I can still remember the feeling very clearly.
Sometime in the middle of October 2010, safely before Hallowe'en, I walked into the Home Depot where I worked to find the Christmas section had been set up. There were lights, stockings, bedeckment, and fake trees. Before Hallowe'en. It was, as far as I was concerned, the breaking of a sacred, unspoken agreement; "Alright, yes, retailers can start plugging Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I don't have to like it, and they have to wait until a few days after the Hallowe'en diabetic coma to wear off. All those lights give me a headache otherwise." Sacred agreements have rarely been so casually phrased.
Christmas has always started before Thanksgiving in my lifetime, but it seemed as though it had finally settled down. Last year was the first time I was aware that the holidays are still riding up on one another. I don't like it. I don't want to spend a quarter of my year getting to Christmas; the excitement surrounding a box you can't unwrap only builds for so long. Then it implodes.
One of the nice things about living in China the last few weeks has been my complete ignorance of Christmas encroaching. No ads on the TV, no promotional sales at the markets, no ceaselessly looping Christmas music. I can enjoy Christmas on my own schedule. As is my custom, the night of Thanksgiving, after dinner is over (we will be having a party for the teachers), I will go home and put on A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Christmas season will truly and honestly begin in that moment, for the first time in as long as I can remember.
For now, I count this as a blessing. Come December, I will miss having put up a Christmas tree, and, more than anything, I will miss walking up and down State Street and Michigan Avenue, taking in the cold and the decorations, listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas. I don't know that I've ever found a more peaceful place.