I have actually started my Christmas shopping already. I am well aware that Thanksgiving isn't here yet — and I will celebrate Thanksgiving.

But the older I get, the slower I get and I realize I cannot wait until Dec.15 to start shopping or I'd never get done.

While I was in the stores Wednesday, I heard some semi-Christmas music. It wasn't really Christmas music, but it sure had the feel of Christmas music.

I don't mind shopping early, but I'm not sure I'm ready to hear Christmas carols while I shop.

So I had this idea of maybe asking the stores to think about playing Thanksgiving songs for the week before Thanksgiving — and then start the Christmas songs. It just makes sense to me — a reminder that we do celebrate another holiday before Christmas.

As I thought about that idea, I realized I don't really know a lot of Thanksgiving songs. I remember as a teen we watched Perry Como on TV and I always loved him singing a song which talked about gathering together to ask the Lord's blessing, etc.

I don't remember all the words, but I do remember for years thinking it wasn't really Thanksgiving until I heard that song. Somehow, though, as years passed by and I didn't hear the song much, I knew it could still be Thanksgiving without hearing the song.

The other song I know about giving thanks doesn't mention Thanksgiving per se but talks about thanking God for various blessings. It could be a Thanksgiving song, but it doesn't mention turkey and pilgrims — just giving thanks.

Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be — more about giving than eating. But somehow I'm not sure it would feel like Thanksgiving without watching the parade, scanning all the newspaper ads for bargains and eating turkey.

While I can do without a Thanksgiving song, I can't do without stopping to say thanks for the blessings of the year and for my life. It's as natural as eating turkey for me.

As I thought about the song, I realized that music is really what helps me celebrate life. I can hear certain songs and be reminded of people who celebrated with me; I can feel their spirit when I hear "their song." And it usually makes me feel better — almost as though they are still here.

With Christmas coming soon, I thought about the songs which to me are synonymous with the holiday and which always make me feel nostalgic as well as grateful for the memories that remind me why we celebrate.

Some people don't like some of the "silly" songs, but I think they add a spirit of joy to the holiday — especially when the children sing them.

Some people think Christmas should only be about the religious side of the holiday and not the secular. But to me hearing "Silver Bells" is almost as meaningful as "Silent Night." That's because it's part of my memories of my mom who celebrated holidays like nobody else. She loved to celebrate with family and friends — and remind them all they are loved not just at Christmas but also year-round.

Christmas cards used to be almost mandatory. I can still remember one which said something to the effect of holidays always reminding people of old times and old friends.

I guess that's what holidays are really all about: Getting in touch with the people who mean the most, the traditions that remind us of good times and good friends, the messages that remind us that there is still love, caring and sharing in this world which sometimes seems dreary and out of control.

I know we don't have to hear a song to remind us of that.

But I have never yet heard or sung "'Silent Night" that I am not reminded of peace and love and the powerful message — and the fact that God is still in control.

The next few weeks we will spend a lot of money preparing for that special time of year when people actually take time from busy lives to spend time with people who are important to them. I love the idea that it's also a time when we count our blessings — and are willing to share some of them with people who need a reminder that there are people who care.

The songs of the holidays remind us of that every time — especially when they bring back memories too special to forget.

I'd still like to hear a special Thanksgiving song before we really get "into" Christmas. Maybe someone could write one that reminds us that after Halloween there is a special holiday called Thanksgiving, which comes before Christmas.

And one of the things we give thanks for each year is Christmas and the fact it is OK to shop early.

Jean Shanley is retired from The Meadville Tribune where she was society and communities editor.

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