I used to love Christmas. As a kid it was pretty magical to wake up Christmas morning and see the presents under the tree and all the decorations. It was a natural tree with big lights and even some bubble lights. To quote Jean Shepherd, “Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.” But that was before the season started kicking off in September or even earlier.
While there might be only brief glimpses of Christmas commercialism in September, today the print and broadcast ads hit full force right after Halloween and run until about midnight December 24th. As a child, I remember watching TV on Christmas Eve and being sad that the holiday ads, especially the ones for toys, were gone for another year. But now, instead of relief from the commercial avalanche, Christmas Eve starts the holiday clearance and Valentine’s Day ads.
Too much, too soon! Retailers are burning out Christmas by starting it too early. The TV shopping channels are the worst, making every hour a “special gift show” for months before the big day. Give it a rest! Most of us are smart enough to know that we can give any product as a gift. (Of course, there was that disaster when I gave everyone edible underwear one year.)
To add to the Christmas madness, radio stations that want to change their formats usually start playing non-stop Christmas music sometime in October. They do it as a stunt to get attention for their new format which usually debuts right after the last version of Silent Night is played in late December. The way I figure it there are 12 Christmas songs with about a zillion versions of each one. These stations are so desperate for content, they start digging deep into their archives. Nothing like Deck the Halls played by the Appalachian zither quartet. And Eminem’s stirring rendition of The Christmas Shoes is a holiday favorite (The Motherf***ing Christmas Shoes).
I am not a particularly religious person in the conventional sense. That’s probably a good thing because retailers are so afraid of offending someone they have their salespeople say “happy holidays” instead of Merry “Christmas.” Mentions of the birth of Christ and the significance of the season are almost impossible to find. It’s just buy, buy, buy! I know that Christmas is an arbitrary date co-opted from a pagan festival, but it’s the date Christians have chosen to celebrate the birth of their Savior.
I was a deacon in my little church in Pennsylvania. We had an old fashioned candlelight service on Christmas Eve. No electric lights, just candles (our insurance company would have plotzed if they knew). Traditional carols and a special sermon. It was great. We put the Christmas tree up in the church the weekend of Thanksgiving and took it down the day after New Year. It was long enough.
I still enjoyed Christmas when I was an adult. The non-stop holiday nonsense didn’t really start until the mid-1990’s. Like most horrific events, no one knew who fired the first shot. We will probably never know the retailer who started Black Friday sales a few days early. That was all it took.
It’s a lot like aviators in the First World War. Originally the WWI biplanes were used for reconnaissance. Flyers from both sides would even wave at each other on their way to scout each other’s positions. One day, someone took a handgun in his plane and fired a shot at the pilot from the other side. Then that pilot took up a rifle, after that they mounted machine guns on the planes, etc.
No one knows for sure who fired the first retail shot. However, since I worked there at the time, I suspect QVC’s holiday obsession might be patient zero, along with rival shopping network HSN. I was always appalled at how early the Christmas set was put up. Eventually it went up the day after Halloween and that was back in 2001.
Things never remain the same. Change is the only constant in life. While it’s natural to want a return to simpler and happier times, it rarely happens. But a little less Christmas would be a good thing. I don’t think retail sales would suffer. In fact, they might just increase. I’ll bet the there’ll be a lot less post holiday depression. And I won’t want to track down and pee on the guy who wrote The Christmas Shoes song.
Now that most brick and mortar stores are going to be open on Thanksgiving Day, any respite from the commercialism of the holiday is unlikely. In a decade or less I predict that the Christmas season will begin in June. Then May…eventually it will be Christmas all year long. Since I never take my lights down I guess that makes me a trendsetter.
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