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Be careful, Grandma - I hear reindeer in the distance - Jason A. Smith

Well, folks, today is Halloween - the day when children get dressed up in their favorite costumes, go to their neighbors' houses or attend church functions and load up on candy. You know what that means, don't you?

Any minute now, we'll be hearing Christmas music on the radio. Before you know it, store aisles will be filled with tinsel, Christmas trees and various other items dressed in red and green.

Some might say, "Wait a minute. Aren't you forgetting about that whole Thanksgiving thing? Christmas isn't until December."

However, it seems that the commercial push toward the celebration of Jesus' birth has started earlier and earlier in recent years.

I was in one particular store a couple of weeks ago, where various Christmas items were already on display. Here I was, in the middle of October, watching a miniature Santa Claus doll dance to an Elvis Presley song. It was difficult to get excited about the holidays at that moment.

To be fair, it could be that such things are being done for the benefit of people who like to plan for the holiday season early so they can beat the rush. Certainly, we've become accustomed to the various commercial aspects of Christmas, and merchants and consumers alike have gotten used to the idea that the Christmas season, for all intents and purposes, begins Nov. 1. To some extent, we have to play that game whether we want to or not.

In case anyone has doubts, let me say that I love Christmas. It's one of my favorite times of the year. I love getting to spend time with family during the holidays, particularly since the holidays are the only time of year I get to see some of them.

I love drinking copious amounts of eggnog while singing along with the radio about Grandma getting run over by a reindeer for the millionth time. I love seeing Christmas decorations on people's houses, and I love watching children's faces light up when they open their presents on Christmas Day.

As much as I love all those things, though, they aren't what Christmas is truly about. Year after year, we seem to stray further away from the baby born in a manger, all the while continuing to spend money and otherwise make ourselves insane during the holiday season. No wonder some people don't enjoy this time of year.

Some people I've talked to have asked me why we, as a society, celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25. They point out the likelihood that Jesus was born at a different time of year, and that to choose one particular day for celebration is a bit arbitrary.

Maybe that's true. But I think the question we should be asking is why, during the time of year set aside for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, we have instead put Him on the back burner.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.