It took me a while to work out that when Americans talk about 'the holidays' they don't just mean Christmas and Hannukah, lumped together in a politically correct way.
No, 'the holidays' very much means Thanksgiving too, so with that coming up next week, it seems that we are now very much in 'holiday' season. (For instance, the Book Club I belong to is devoting one session in early December to some 'lighter' reads - 'holiday' reading. I was wondering why this was happening pre-Christmas, when it occurred to me that people actually have more time off at Thanksgiving than Christmas itself - and probably spend more time preparing the Thanksgiving turkey than the Christmas day lunch).
Bill Bryson says in Notes from a Big Country that Thanksgiving is his favourite US holiday, because there's no present-buying, just lots of food and drink, and I partly agree - but at the same time, the relative lack of build-up means it seems to creep up rather unexpectedly on me. As an expat, there you are, suddenly, in a perfectly ordinary November week, with several 'holiday' days on your hands and not very much to do. Apart from Thanksgiving day itself, when we are cooking a turkey for the European friends who entertained us last year, we have no plans, and yet the boys have three days off school for Thanksgiving recess (and a conveniently scheduled 'early closing' the previous day, apparently to practise emergency drills).
I have mentioned before how the Friday between Thanksgiving (always a Thursday) and the weekend is known as Black Friday, and how, although it is not officially a public holiday, most Americans take a day off (ostensibly to do their Christmas shopping, but quite probably because they are too full of turkey to move). However, The Doctor will be stoically at work on the Friday, leaving me to entertain the two boys on a chilly November day when many people are out of town or in 'holiday' mode. Luckily our local library puts on a special 'holiday show' for kids, so I have already made damn sure we have tickets.
The proximity of Thanksgiving to Christmas also means that the whole 'holiday' consumption theme has already kicked off, big-time. If Christmas shopping traditionally gets going on Black Friday, the media here agrees that this year it seems to have started two weeks earlier. Every day the school sends home countless forms to fill in and order gifts through the PTA. I spent this morning at the bus stop discussing gifts for teachers (a BIG deal here) with my neighbour, something that I would normally think about at the last minute once I have sorted out present-buying for all the family.
Meanwhile TV ads are all about entertaining for the 'holidays' - and other holiday-related themes. (One of my favourites is two guys in suits solemnly telling us about an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous that will guarantee you will be 'sober by the holidays'. Seeing as Thanksgiving is next week, this seems a tad optimistic).
So, desite feeling as if autumn is barely over (the Fall colours are still gorgeous and people still have their Halloween decorations out), it looks as though I'm going to have to jolly myself into 'holiday' mood very soon. As for being 'thankful' - the over-riding theme of Thanksgiving - well, I'm thankful that there are still five and half weeks before Christmas.....