My November Calm Before the Christmas Storm

Featured Holidays

I have done a couple of Thanksgiving posts in the past, one about what I hate about the holiday and another about what I love, but I don’t want to talk about Thanksgiving so much.

I want to talk about November, and what it means to my end-of-the-year sanity.

When we used to visit my grandparents in San Diego every summer, we would always take a trip up to Los Angeles for a few days after. My dad would always tell me about how glad he was certain big sections of valley and interstate made sure these two huge California cities haven’t merged together into that big fictional “San Angeles” megacity yet.

That is how I feel about the first three weeks of November. The month is my big calm and cool gap between the Halloween and Christmas holidays.

We spend the entire month of October (and a little at the end of September) costume-making, decorating, spooky destination finding, and treat creating. This is all voluntarily because I love Halloween.

Likewise, we spend a good four weeks making lists for gifts and cards, planning get-togethers, budgeting what gifts to purchase, attending our religious and secular obligations, baking for friends, cooking for family, decorating the tree and home, and basically turning everything into a sparkly, cinnamon-smelling world of evergreen celebration. Again, I am putting myself through all this because I love Christmas.

That being said, I need some downtime between these two happenings. I need a time when there is little I need to plan, little I need to make, and next to nothing I need to dress up for. I need November.

What do I do during this month?

The day after Halloween, we take down all our decorations and put up a little Dia de Los Muertos display. I live in the Southwest, and it has been a part of our lives before it got noticed everywhere. On November 3, it also goes down and a few mantle and shelves in our main living area get adorned with some subtle Thanksgiving-style “autumn” trimmings, just to keep things a little special. Mostly, the house goes back to empty, clean normalcy for a while, and we go about our business.

A simple Dia de Los Muertos display is all we need after Halloween to transition into a month of calm. All images: Lisa Tate

I take walks with my dogs when the weather and leaves are at their best in our area. I enjoy a non-holiday-themed piece of banana bread and tea made for no one but our family. I try to work on projects, read books, or watch movies that I want to see that are not “seasonal favorites” like horror movies or holiday specials.

Mostly, I just try to let my mind absorb the seemingly uneventful calm before the holiday season storm. It is like my nice, cozy nap before I have to get up and get to work. It isn’t long, but if I take advantage of it at the right time, it is the rest I need.

It isn’t that I don’t think about what I need to do for the rest of the year. That would be impossible. My husband and I do a store run to purchase out Thanksgiving meal items, just for the four of us. If I see a Christmas or holiday gift idea, I’ll pick it up and hide it away. I do make sure these things aren’t the pressing, crazy, in-your-face holiday “to-dos” people try to start doing right when the candles of the jack-o-lanterns are snuffed.

We even try to keep the Thanksgiving observances low-key. We plan a fun family meal, and if we know any people who are going to be alone, we’ll ask them over. Often, when I tell people our meal with just be the four of us, some friends feel sorry for us and say, “we’re having a big gathering, and you’re welcome to join us.” That’s a sweet gesture, but pretty much the opposite of what I want in November. Seriously, do they even know me?

november decor
Little pockets of fall decorations are as festive as our house gets in November just in between the two big end-of-year decorating frenzies.

I think that is one of the many reasons Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is still so popular, in addition to the fact it has amazing visuals. The idea of these two holidays melding into each other is cool and kind of fun at first but, ultimately, results in stress and a massive personality clash. I do have some Nightmare Before Christmas items I put out at Halloween and Christmas, but they don’t stay up in between the seasons.

Lately, it seems is as if we are trying to move everything up a month. Halloween decorations were nearly out of the stock in September in some stores because they were up in August. I already know people who immediately put up their Christmas tree on November 1. Please stop! I love having reasons to celebrate but take a breather.

Come on, Christmas, stay in your lane. I won’t forget you, so quit being so pushy.

Whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate this December, I hope you take some time in the following weeks to just recover and relax with your family. Don’t feel guilty about taking it easy… You’ll be busy soon enough. Trust me.

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