Christmas in New York is magical.

In addition to the usual festive lights and general holiday cheer, the city's many cultures celebrate in their own ways.

My dad's family, for example, is from Puerto Rico and we drink coquito (rum-infused eggnog) and eat pasteles (our version of tamales). My mom's family, and my husband's, celebrate the holiday in part by eating Chinese food on Dec. 25.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays because family members have the day off and we go to Chinatown and hang out -- no stress. It's a beautiful day spent with family, which is what Christmas is all about, right?

But the holiday season has changed, starting earlier each year -- mostly because of the gift-shopping craze. This year it was earlier than a menorah lighting on Thanksgiving.

When I walked into a store to buy Halloween candy last month, I saw snowman dolls and those little chocolate Santas. The holiday season shouldn't start before Halloween.

And don't think Hanukkah -- which coincides with Thanksgiving this year -- had anything to do with it. I didn't see any gelt in the massive holiday display.

Such an early start dilutes the spirit of the holiday. It should be about the birth of Christ -- and my dim sum. Not retail marketing. By the time Christmas arrives, many are sick of the decorations and good cheer.

That shouldn't happen.

The holiday season should start when Santa makes his appearance at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Why would anyone buy Christmas candy or gifts earlier than that, anyway? Wouldn't the candy get stale by the time Dec. 25 rolls around? And where in your tiny apartment do you hide presents that long without your kids finding them?

Autumn in New York is awesome -- from the beautifully colored leaves to cider. Don't rush through the season: Enjoy yourself and appreciate the moment. Christmas will come when it comes (there's no reason for snowman dolls on Halloween).

If you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, don't think about Christmas for a bit. Stop and give thanks.

There's a lot for which to be thankful. For example, nobody stole my land this year.