What was that on that last block of TV commercials? Was that three Christmas commercials in-a-row?! Was that the subtle chime of Jingle Bells that I just heard, a subtext designed to whet my appetite for … holiday shopping? Wait, what day is it again? October 26. OCT-O-BER. It’s not even the end of Daylight Savings, people!
True, my favorite holiday is Halloween. So I felt a little slighted when I walked into my neighborhood grocery store on my birthday (Oct. 2) and saw a HUGE Christmas display, front-and-center. But being used to the short-shrift people give Halloween, I wasn’t even going to say anything until my best friend, visiting from out-of-town, stopped in her tracks and with a point, said, “Is that a Christmas display?!” She was slightly horrified. And no, Halloween is not her favorite holiday. So there it was: A Christmas-lover recoiling at the oddity of the Christmas Creep.
Now, I know I have a reputation as a Christmas curmudgeon. So I don’t get off on decking the halls! But I get that Christmas is the most popular, most loved holiday. (Judging by popular culture: People like stuff, getting presents, the mass-consumer orgy.) I accept it. I don’t like it. But I accept it. Still, I don’t think I’m all that far off the path questioning this perennial calendar-creep-up. Yes, yes, it’s happening earlier every year. But why?
I can’t help the questions swirling in my head (maybe the Gum Drop Fairy put them there):
- Isn’t part of the “magic” of Christmas that it is a special time? It’s not an everyday-gotta-do-laundry time. And it’s a very specific time of year, if you believe the Rudolph special (which I do). I’m all for pointing out the arbitrariness of time (it is an artificial construct, after all), but I thought the whole deal with Christmas is that it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.” And that time is in December. Or at least not until the day after Thanksgiving. I’m just going by what I’ve been indoctrinated to believe for the past 33 years, but I could be wrong. So the question is: If in the past we all agreed that part of what made “Christmas”, well Christmas, was the time/date on the calendar, isn’t it pointing out that indeed Christmas has a lot of hollow hype if we keep changing the time/date when Christmas starts?
- And getting further into this “Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year” time conundrum: Doesn’t it diminish the specialness of the holiday if we make it a longer season (by which we can become bored and anesthetized)? Isn’t the anticipation part of what makes it special?
- Here’s my real irritation: Isn’t all this inching up just a fourth-quarter ploy by companies looking to make money? We’re in one of the worst economic down-turns in American history. Companies are banking on the last quarter sales to try and pull things out of the shitter. Okay, that’s their right under capitalism. But doesn’t that make us — the laid-off or under-employed, over-debt-ridden masses the patsies? The obligation of the Christmas orgy may be the last thing Americans need to be doing or feeling guilt-ridden about if they can’t afford it.
- And, hell, I’ll just say it: What’s wrong with the other fall holidays anyway? What’s wrong with Halloween and Thanksgiving? Who doesn’t like holidays that are centered around eating (candy and then turkey, what’s not to like?)?
I guess it just comes down to what you take away from all the Christmas commercials already playing on TV and the displays popping up all over Consumerville. If buying stuff makes you feel all warm-and-fuzzy, then I guess expanding Christmas to three months is fantastic for you. If Santa and fake snowmen in the middle of October make you treat the next person in line a little friendlier, then this is for you.
But I would just leave you with this: If Christmas is so special and lovely, doesn’t it make it more special the more rarified it is? And if what you miss about Christmas is that certain “spirit,” why don’t you just live in that friendlier, more charitable spirit all year long? You don’t need a holiday to have permission to live a sweeter life. You don’t need an excuse to make your life nicer, better, more full of family and friends. Live for today, not Dec. 25!