It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, the temperate South Texas weather notwithstanding. Cities all across the Rio Grande Valley have started dressing themselves up for the holidays. And with Thanksgiving just a few days away, we can dispatch with the complaints that it’s too soon to start the festivities.
Shoppers already are filling local malls in search of the perfect gifts for their loved ones. Department stores are full of signs of the season, from stacks of decorations to aisles of suggested presents, all under the steady drone of classic holiday music. In some households, children have started preparing their wish lists to send to Santa Claus.
At the municipal level, many cities are hanging holiday banners along their main streets, and scheduling treelighting ceremonies and parades. Many have set up elaborate holiday displays or special features, such as Hidalgo’s Festival of Lights, Brownsville’s Holiday Village complete with scaleddown cottages, and the Sandcastle Village on South Padre Island.
Let’s face it: there’s no escaping the Christmastime. So we might as well jump in and enjoy it.
Everyone is encouraged to take some time during those shopping trips to visit the holiday displays. Many people even enjoy driving around local neighborhoods to check our neighbors’ home decorations — some get pretty elaborate, and a few neighborhoods coordinate displays to create a diorama of decorations that follow a coherent theme or tell a story.
We urge residents to walk through the city displays and attend the parades and special events. The season’s celebratory nature offers a special opportunity to share the holiday spirit, meet a few new neighbors and perhaps make a new friends. That sense of community can carry over through the next year — and as a practical matter, it helps foster a spirit of cooperation that some cities credit with deterring neighborhood crime.
To be sure, there are those who complain about the secularization of the Christmas season, and they remind us of the true reason for the holiday. That truth certainly isn’t lost on most Valley residents, where a Nativity scene traditionally is every bit as important, and often just as elaborate, as the Christmas tree. And while the Advent season is a time of spiritual cleansing for those who observe it as preparation for the coming of the Savior, we see no better reason to celebrate than the Savior’s ultimate arrival.
Neither is the holiday exclusionary. We note that the Messiah stems from the Jewish tradition, and that Christ observed Jewish practices until the day he died. An appreciation for non-Christian traditions such has Hanukkah, which begins this year on the day before Christmas Eve, certainly fits the Christian tradition of tolerance.
So let us share the joy, and give in to the spirit of the holidays. Let it grow to be a spirit of celebration, a spirit of community.
Who knows? If it develops into an urge to go out caroling, then so be it.