Up here in the happy North, we can start decking the halls and hitting the rum-nog while the pumpkin rots on our steps (we would have thrown it out with last week's trash, but it didn't fit).
So many things signal the onset of the Christmas season. The malls should start playing carols any day now. The thrift stores have their tattered trees and decorations out of storage and slouched next to the counter of fake-gold jewelry. It is possible at this minute to buy earrings shaped like little wreaths.
One seasonal item in particular has always made me weep with nostalgia. Not the gingerbread, not the egg nog, not the nasty bits of fruit cake, but these. Juicy, fragrant, peelable Christmas oranges. It's not the sight of them so much that gets me, since they've been in stores for at least a month now and will hang on until long after the tree's been de-balled and burnt up, but the actual smell and feel and taste. Oranges are around all year, but not these....these rare, precious fruits where difficulty in eating is exceeded by payoff. Some fruits are, let's face it, more trouble than their worth (I'm looking at you, pomegranates), but a Christmas orange practically peels itself for you. All you have to do is move your hand towards your mouth.
Today, after weeks of restraint - weeks of walking through the produce section with my eyes averted and my nose plugged - I purchased and ate my very first Christmas orange of the season.