JIM CREES: Christmas in September? Really??

This column is a pre-emptive strike.

But first ... my disclosure statement.

I love Christmas. I love the holiday. I love the spirit of the season. I love the Nativity story. I love the sweep of tradition. I love the church services. I love the meaning and reason for the season.

I love Christmas.

Having said that ...

It makes me absolutely crazy when every year, (certainly for the past ten years or so), somebody ... anybody ... kicks off the Christmas season with the now traditional, “They’re stealing Christmas ...”

“They” are usually some mythical liberals somewhere wishing someone a “Happy Holidays” rather than a “Merry Christmas.”

Sigh.

The “stealing Christmas” fire is usually a stoked by guys like Bill O’Reilly who has pretty much made a career out of getting folks in a panic over someone or the some group who is “stealing Christmas.”

Every year, O’Reilly and others of his ilk search the wire services and news networks with a fine-toothed comb hungrily seeking out the off-the-wall story about some clerk at a Home Depot in Boise or a cashier in Portland who wished a customer “Happy Holidays” rather that the more orthodox greetings acceptable to the purists.

Then, when an example or two are found, O’Reilly and his followers spend the rest of the Season of Good Cheer in a state of hateful funk.

Every year, same story.

Last year, they managed to convince an elderly friend of ours that someone was stealing Christmas — probably the Kenyan Moslem dude now living in the White House.

At one stage she wished us a “Merry Christmas” and I responded with real love and sincere affection, “Have a great holiday season.”

She nearly spit! “You say ‘Merry Christmas’ or nothing at all,” she said with indignant anger,

So, I recanted my blessing ... and said nothing at all.

Look. You can take my best wishes in the spirit in which they are offered, or I suppose you can read something sinister into them.

It’s up to you. Not me.

But ... back to the topic at hand.

Stealing Christmas.

Anyone getting geared up for the annual “They’re stealing Christmas” fest had better take a look around.

At least three stores I’ve been in lately — last weekend, actually — already have Christmas displays up and holiday carols playing in the aisles!

Yessir. It isn’t even Halloween time yet, and at least a few stores I visited Saturday — Costco, Menards, and Kohls — have already got Christmas decorations prominently displayed and in the Menards in Mt. Pleasant, you can hear cheery Christmas carols in the aisles.

Seriously!!??!!

C’mon folks.

I understand people in retail feel a need to get a jump on holiday sales, but didn’t that head-start used to begin just after Thanksgiving??

Hey! The leaves are just now turning color.

We’ve had a few pretty frosty evenings. I’ve needed to cover some plants. But heck, they’ve barely started harvesting pumpkins!

There are still guys out cutting hay, and Christmas displays are up in some retail stores throughout the area — and even more so down in Grand Rapids.

It’s ridiculous.

Frankly, I think it is THESE folks — the Christmas in September people — who are sapping the Spirit of Christmas from the holiday season. NOT the folks who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I mean, let’s be honest here. I love the glitz and glitter of the Christmas holiday just as much, if not more than most folks.

Love it.

Look. I start letting my beard grow out at this time of year so kids will think I’m Santa. (I don’t need to worry about the “bowl full of jelly” belly. That kinda takes care of itself!)

I love the holiday. I love Christmas.

But I need to ask all you “They’re stealing Christmas” people a question: Don’t you think Christmas displays in the middle of September somewhat diminish the Spirit of the Holiday? I actually find them a little annoying, and somewhat depressing.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I enjoy the flow of the seasons highlighted by seasonal holidays.

I enjoy the crisp autumn evenings with colorful falling leaves festooning the highways and byways of our beautiful part of the state.

I enjoy the excitement of kids getting decked out in their Halloween finest to “Trick and Treat” their way through neighborhoods gaily decorated with pumpkins and cornstalks.

I love the Thanksgiving season — a time of giving thanks for the good Lord’s bounteous gifts.

I love slipping slowly and ever so peacefully into the Christmas and Chanukah season — with the wonderful messages of creation and fulfillment.

I love the holidays.

But I hate being mugged into celebrating out of season. I hate being mugged into listening to an interminable loop of The Little Drummer Boy — IN SEPTEMBER!

Stealing Christmas! Not likely, and not hardly.

Not the way the retailers are setting up already.