Holiday Memories
John Norberg, humor columnist s

I have started a new weight loss program. It's perfect for this time of year. I call it the Sugar Plum Diet.

For one month you eat everything in sight, especially if it has sugar in it. And then you worry about how much weight you've gained in January.

You don't actually do anything about it in January. But you do worry about it.

December is the month of light. We decorate our homes with lights and everyone is in a bright, light festive mood. The season of lights is not a time to diet.

Diets are for January, the month of dark. Dark mornings. Cold dark days. Diets. In December we go to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads. By January they turn into kind of a nightmare.

Like most people I overeat on Thanksgiving. And then the day after Thanksgiving it's time to start in on things like ultimate Christmas double chocolate blackout cake with raspberry sauce and whipped cream. And much, much more.

Among the great things about Thanksgiving is that when it's over it's not the end of a holiday. It's the beginning of a long joyous holiday season.

The day after Thanksgiving is now called Black Friday, which is a bad name for beginning a season filled with light. It has to do with shopping.

In our house I put up our Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving, and we have our own Black Friday when I turn them on for all the family to enjoy.

All the lights in the house go black.

Sometimes all the lights in the neighborhood have gone off, too.

There have been a couple times that we had some great Fourth of July fireworks when I plugged in my Christmas lights.

The term Black Friday started in the early 1960s in Philadelphia to describe the heavy traffic and Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Some people say the name has to do with retailers going into the "black" after operating in the "red" as people waited to shop for the holidays.

Today Black Friday brings up images of people camping out all night at stores and rushing inside in the middle of the night to fight other shoppers for the best deals on the most popular gifts for Christmas and Hanukkah – for others as well as for themselves.

At Thanksgiving dinner we give thanks to God for our bounty. And on Black Friday we rush out to the stores and buy more.

Black Friday has actually extended into Black Thursday as stores open for Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving Day. It's even become Black Wednesday as shoppers get an extra early start. Some stores and shoppers celebrated Black Fridays in October. And I suppose with all the Christmas decorations up at the start of fall we could start a new term: Black September.

There was a time when people wished every day could be Christmas. Modern merchandising has answered their dreams.

Our family traditions around Thanksgiving were never black. They were always filled with light and sparkle.

When my sister, brother and I were children, our family had a tradition on the day before Thanksgiving that later switched to the Friday after.

We lived in Chicago and we went downtown to Marshall Field's Department Store on State Street. We gave our wish lists to Santa and then had dessert on the seventh floor under the big Christmas tree in the Walnut Room.

It's a beautiful, huge room with Circassian wood paneling imported from Russia and Austrian chandeliers. My grandmother took my mother to the Walnut Room when she was a girl in the 1920s before the Depression.

The room dates to 1907 and is open all year. But during the Christmas season a 45-foot tree decked in lights and ornaments takes its traditional place in the center of the room.

The stately department store, now a Macy's (although I refuse to call it that) also features a Tiffany stained glass ceiling we would marvel at, and outside the store we walked along the broad sidewalk and viewed Christmas stories come to life in big display windows while street venders filled the cold night air with the warm aroma of roasting chestnuts.

As adults with children of our own we moved our visit to the Walnut Room to the day after Christmas, Black Friday. But instead of rushing to buy, we enjoyed watching Christmas lights sparkle in the eyes or our children and then our grandchildren.

Sometimes when we were done we would squeeze 14 of us into two, small horse drawn carriages to tour the sights and sounds on State Street lighted up for the holidays. We sat on top of one another. We froze. We had a wonderful time as only families filled with love can have.

Forget Black Friday. We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. And there is so much joy ahead through this wonderful season that is just beginning.

And today I am thankful for the best part of the holidays.


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