Maybe I’m just getting older and starting to harp on about how things were different when I was young, but the past few years it seems that the Christmas season has been spreading out, creeping up to shake its jingle bells right in the face of the great pumpkin and nearly eliminate Autumn all together.
Over the weekend I took a trip to Macy’s to use my 20% off coupon on some remaining registry items and as I walked around the store I couldn’t help but feel accosted by the sparkling Christmas trees and brightly wrapped gifts lurking around every corner. I swear I heard a few bars of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and it just about sent me into a pre-Christmas panic. Wasn’t it only November 6th? Isn’t there still another major holiday before Christmas?
I began to worry that I hadn’t started my Christmas shopping, that the year was already over, and that I had somehow missed a whole month—what happened to November? What happened to Turkeys and leaves and the harvest? Apparently you can’t market Thanksgiving like other holidays so instead it has the honor of kicking it all off. We all know about black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving where we literally trample our fellow-man to get a couple bucks off a flat screen television. It sort of tosses aside the whole idea of being thankful for the simple things. Maybe instead of going around the table saying what we are grateful for we should just read off our Christmas lists?
Every holiday has been made bigger by the marketing push for products and gifts you need to celebrate it sufficiently. But there is something untouched about Thanksgiving day, aside from oven stuffers and the occasional chocolate turkey, there isn’t much for the department stores to sell on you. Maybe it’s remained sacred somehow, or maybe the advertising world just hasn’t hit on great ideas like cornucopias filled with gifts for the ones you love (to show you’re really thankful). Either way, its lack of marketability has forced it to be folded in with the winter season and simply labeled part of “The Holidays”. The upshot of this is that “The Holidays” start on November 1st and last until January 1st, making Thanksgiving and all the warm, happy, gracious sentiment it evokes nothing more than a stop on the way to the superstar of all holidays—CHRISTMAS!
I’d like to enjoy Autumn, the leaves falling and the family gathering around the table to discuss what they’re grateful for rather than what they’re planning to buy. There was always something magical about the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade and the fact that when Santa finally made his way down 34th street waving his chubby velvet clad arm he brought the Christmas season along with him. It seems strange that Macy’s, who started this tradition, are now the same ones who violate it by getting out the Christmas decorations a month before they bring Santa to the city. They should just buy out NYC’s Village Halloween parade and move Santa in there to get this whole thing rolling a bit earlier.
Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays and celebration, my family and our mixed cultural bag celebrates a whole bunch of them during the “holiday” season. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that what makes Christmas, Thanksgiving, and any holiday special is that it only happens once a year, so when it seems to last for months, some of the sparkle rubs off. Plus, we all know it’s not just about the presents (no matter what Amy March says). I know it’s a cliché at this point, but Christmas, and holidays in general aren’t exciting because of what you get, but because of who you’re with and what you do during a specific and singular time of year.
I’ve worked for a lot of retail stores, I know it’s hard to re-do the windows twice a season. I’ve worked for websites too and know for sure what a pain it can be to re-vamp the home page and the pressure there is to get that Christmas stuff up as soon as the Halloween costumes comes off. I understand people are just doing their jobs. Maybe it’s my fault for going to the stores and shopping online because I’ve bought into the idea that I should be buying gifts for everyone I know as soon as I can. Or maybe in these hard times we need more “Holiday” to lift our spirits, but I somehow have the feeling that retailers aren’t as concerned with cheering us up as they are with getting our money.
It’s fairly common for American tradition to be dictated by large corporations, not just the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole and even Tiffany engagement rings, so it’s not crazy to think they have a lot of control over our culture, which frankly I find frightening. I know the holidays are a loaded topic, and I am in no way against celebration—quite the contrary in fact, but I don’t want the season to lose its specialness and I just want the beautiful month of November back!
Anyone else feeling a bit stressed out by the holiday season starting already? Or do you all have your shopping done and are happily sitting back listening to A Very Special Christmas #8 while you sip cocoa by the fire and laugh at me?