As of mid-September, grocery stores were already starting to sell Halloween decorations. I couldn’t help but scoff when I saw the skulls and bags of candy — at that point, the temperature was still in the nineties and Fall Break hadn’t even arrived. It is easy to write off asynchronous marketing as a harmless example of companies looking to make as much profit off of holidays as possible. This is likely the underlying explanation, but I don’t think that we can dismiss the trend as harmless so quickly. The total effect of holiday seasons arriving earlier and lasting longer disrupts the rhythm of our lives, and we should fight to preserve the natural ebb and flow of the year.
This rhythm exists even though we don’t notice it. The glitz and excited anticipation of New Years is followed by the cold, tired months of January and February, which is punctuated by the romance of Valentine’s Day. The interminable boredom of March is broken up by Spring Break. April brings new life and the stress of Finals Week. Summer is both exciting in its vigor and exasperating in its length. We feel both apprehensive and eager to go back to school in August. September is full of football games and meeting new friends, but it mellows out in the monotony of schoolwork. October brings the unique joy of warm drinks on cool nights and the freedom of Fall Break. The rest of October, and the beginning of November, drag on as we get exhausted by schoolwork. Thanksgiving is a welcome respite, a chance to gather and feast with family before we become overwhelmed with testing anxiety during Finals Week in early December. Finally, we finish the semester and return home to celebrate Christmas or other holidays with our families before starting the yearly cycle over again.
Most people have an instinctive sense of this ebb and flow that I’ve described. We know that college football games in March or resolutions in November just don’t fit. Why is this important? Why do we laugh at people who listen to Christmas music in July? Simply put, it’s because our human lives need rhythm. We need the highs of Spring Break and the lows of the long, cold winter. Just as we can’t exist in a permanent state of Finals Week stress, neither can we exist in a permanent state of Thanksgiving joy. We would burn out emotionally. Many of us experience this at the end of what we call the holiday season. The continuous hyper pace of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, back to back, exhausts us and makes us long for the boredom of the long, cold month of January. Similarly, by the end of March we are desperate to break free of the monotony of school.
The highs and lows of the year help us to celebrate properly and to embrace that which makes us most human. We remember family, beauty and pure sensory indulgence through temporal markers. We know that it is time to visit our families when the air grows crisp and Thanksgiving draws near. We know to enjoy the beauty of nature when warmth begins to seep into the air in spring. We know to nest and relax with a good book and a warm drink when the snows start.
The rhythm of our life is important. It ties our holidays, the high and low points of school and the changing seasons into a cohesive life. We should embrace the highs and lows — the joys and sorrows of the year. Don’t give into the suggestion that every moment is for celebrating the next major holiday, especially if it’s months away. We should wait to indulge pumpkin spiced lattes and sweater weather until it is actually cold. Hold off on Christmas music until at least after Thanksgivings. Hold onto the rhythm of your life, and embrace the seasons of highs and lows that remind us of what it is to be human.