Every year, I feel like holidays are getting closer and closer, and my ability to handle them is becoming less and less.

Every year, I feel like holidays are getting closer and closer, and my ability to handle them is becoming less and less.

At times, I find myself wishing we could have a sabbatical from holidays for a year or two. My guilt response regarding these thoughts was running rampant until I overheard other people expressing the same desire. That led me to ask some of friends how they felt about the holidays, and practically all said they felt overwhelmed and stressed.

Was this always the case? Personally, I don't think so.

Over the years, the holiday season has expanded. We used to celebrate them one at a time. Each had its calendar of events, and began and ended in a timely fashion. Each season had its reason.

In the past, we practiced rituals that befited the celebrations. When I went to buy a turkey as a young mother, the store was filled with pumpkins, cranberries and all the trimmings. No displays for Christmas stocking stuffers were to be found.

Somewhere a long the way, a committee from the retail industry was formed and decided Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas should all run together like an undercooked egg. And I think we all know how unappetizing that is!

George Bernard Shaw said it best: "A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell."

Frankly, I'm not ready to see skeletons and Frankenstein masks in store windows in August. I also don't want to start reading about holiday stress in mid-September because it makes me stressed.

Listening to Christmas songs for weeks on end starting in mid-October may feel merry to some, but it can also remove us from feeling excited about the day itself. It's like having a wedding rehearsal every day for a year prior to the real thing. It loses something in the process. I know that as Christmas gets closer, articles and ads for New Year's will appear.

All of this holiday super-sizing is making a lot of people feel humorless. Joy to the world is being replaced by whining and moaning.

It's hard not to get caught up in the frenzy of these serial holidays, but I think we can all make an effort to slow down and enjoy them one at a time.

No one has ever gone to jail for not having their Christmas shopping done before Dec. 1.

Thanksgiving is this week, and I really love that holiday because no presents are necessary to gather with friends and family. The greatest gifts -- each other -- are already present.

Let's make a pact to steep ourselves in the smells and revel in the sounds of great conversations at our Thanksgiving tables. Let's be grateful for the day and our lives, and when it's all over, take time to savor the memories.

Then and only then should you start thinking about the next holiday.

Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send e-mail to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the Web site at www.stressed.com, or call 800-99-TADAH (82324).