Merry Thanksgiving!

11/24/2011 12:05 am ET | Updated Jan 24, 2012

"Charissa will you please turn that Christmas music off?!" my dad pesters as I drive with him to the store. I wince as I turn the radio to Mike and Mike on ESPN. "Really, it's not even Thanksgiving yet!" As we walk into the store, we see Christmas stuff already hung up, and it's only the first week of November. I look at all the lights and garland with delight and my dad walks past me to go get milk. "I can't believe people are actually buying things this early!" he said as he breezes by. "Yeah, I guess it does seem a little ridiculous," I sigh. I guess it's true; we really should be thinking of one holiday at a time. But it got me thinking: Why does Christmas get all the hype?

The most obvious answer anyone could give is the presents. I know growing up I used to flip through pages and pages of Toys R Us ads putting the little "I really like this!" stickers on all the "cool" things. Every commercial on TV was important - I had to see which toys were in and which ones were out. Polly Pockets - must have. Old Barbie dolls - out. All the stores in town strategically began putting out Christmas stuff earlier and earlier, claiming that you should "get your Christmas shopping done early," though it's clear that millions of people continue to wait until the final days before Christmas to finish amassing their mountains of gifts to give to anxiously awaiting family and friends. You would think the present factor of all this would be more stress than excitement ... until you actually give something. So maybe there's something a little more.

Christmas traditions have become amazingly widespread. Initially, it was strictly Christians celebrating the birth of Christ. Then the whole aspect of Santa entered the equation and made the holiday more exciting - at least for the bleary-eyed kids who tried desperately to stay up to witness his arrival each year. The Christmas tree, stockings, and elves became more and more prominent in each house that celebrated. Then it wasn't just a day anymore, it was a whole season of buying gifts and cutting trees and baking cookies. Now it's not even just Christians that celebrate Christmas. Some of my Muslim friends say that they still get presents on Christmas just because they don't really have a winter holiday to celebrate and all of December seems to be centered around Christmas anymore. My Jewish friend still likes to wear Santa hats and give Christmas presents, too.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are people who like Christmas just for the presents. But for me, it's not just about the religious aspect of the holiday, or even about the celebrations with family on the day itself. It's the whole season. And I don't mean the presents and cookies. Around this time, people just seem to be lighter. It's about the warm feeling you get just by making a snowman with your sister or brother, the flutter you get when you hear your favorite Christmas song, the glee of getting to decorate the tree with mom. This season is a time of joy and love, no matter what age or what religion or what walk of life. So yes, I will belt out "Frosty the Snowman" if that means preserving that tiny piece of bliss for just a little bit longer before I have to take down the lights and ornaments once again.