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Local Column

Olson: As changes continue, Christmas season grows longer

Santa Claus speaks in DeKalb in 2016.
Santa Claus speaks in DeKalb in 2016.

At some point years start to go by faster and faster. The change they bring, which once seemed so slow in coming, later seems to have happened almost overnight.

About the time I landed my first job as a reporter at a daily newspaper, a local politician had made headlines by taking what many saw as an outrageous position.

The paper was the Northwest Herald, and the politician was state Rep. Cal Skinner, a Crystal Lake Republican. Skinner was facing a primary challenge in March 2000, and had come out in support of allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.

People were horrified. Teachers called the idea “lunacy.” Skinner lost the primary that year, and “the gun thing” was cited as a reason why.

Today, 10 states allow people with a permit to carry a concealed weapon into a school, including teachers. President Donald Trump has proposed arming teachers.

The idea isn’t universally accepted, of course. In DeKalb this week, the DeKalb School District 428 Board declined to support a proposal urging the state legislature to allow teachers to be armed.

It’s not what I would want in my children’s schools, either. However, a proposal to arm teachers probably would not be cited as the reason a candidate would lose a Republican primary election today.

By the same token, most voters in 2000 probably would have shunned a candidate who made marijuana legalization part of their platform. Voters in only five states had approved of “marijuana-as-medicine” by 2000. There actually was a marijuana legalization vote in Alaska that year – it failed 60% to 40%.

Now, Illinois will begin the 2020s by legalizing marijuana. That will make 11 states where pot is legal for adults older than 21 to buy, possess and use.

In most states where marijuana has been legalized, it happened by referendum. But in Illinois our legislators voted to do it (although one of them did crack an egg into a pan on the Statehouse floor in a reenactment of the “your brain on drugs” TV commercial from the 1980s.)

These are only a couple of ideas that have gone from outrageous to mainstream during my adult life, although there are others, such as same-sex marriage.

What I’m wondering now, however, is what’s going to happen with Christmas.

Although people sometimes say there’s a “war on Christmas,” it actually seems to be growing more powerful.

Christmas has expanded far beyond 12 days, first pushing to the day after Thanksgiving. It now seems poised to engulf the entire month of November.

Some homes in my neighborhood have had Christmas lights on display for at least the past two weeks. They’re playing Christmas music at grocery and shoe stores. My wife and I visited friends last weekend, and their Christmas tree already was up, stockings hanging above the fireplace.

The early adopters are unapologetic. They like Christmastime. They like the songs, they like the decorations and you know, it’s their house, their store, their front yard.

They also have a celebrity spokesperson in Mariah Carey, who this year posted a video on Instagram declaring that Nov. 1 is the start of the Christmas season.

It’s kind of hard to argue with them. Especially this year, given that it’s been snowing since Halloween and Thanksgiving comes as late as the calendar will allow.

The lights look pretty in the dark. The tree and decorations are pleasant. If, as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” then why not start earlier?

I admit I’ve caught myself enjoying the songs playing in the stores.

This is how change sneaks up on you. Consensus builds quietly. Then one day what seemed like a crazy idea – like putting your Christmas tree up Nov. 2, legalizing marijuana or letting teachers carry guns – seems less off the wall.

The Yuletide may be gaining strength, but I’m conservative on this matter. If you’re taking a poll, put me down for no Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for those of you who take the time to read this column and for those who take the time to write or call me with your thoughts.

It’s a privilege to cover and comment on the news, and without those of you who read and subscribe, it would not be possible.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone. After it’s over, if you’re so inclined, get the Christmas decorations out.   

Except for you radicals who did so weeks ago.

• Eric Olson is general manager of the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb County, a part of Shaw Media Illinois.

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