It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...In September

Deck The Halls, Just Not This Early

I walk through the automatic doors of my local Wal-Mart (or Target, or Walgreen’s, or Safeway) and the first thing I see is a huge display of lights, pine trees, Santas and snowmen. Tinny-sounding Christmas carols play over the loudspeakers. Aisles marked “seasonal” feature boxes of lights, ornaments, bows and wreaths. It’s all very festive-looking.

There’s just one little problem: it’s not even November yet!

How is it that the holidays—all holidays—keep coming earlier and earlier? Right now, it’s not even the middle of September and I already see decorations for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas in the stores. Every other television commercial urges viewers to “stock up early for Christmas.”

I understand the economic value of early merchandising. Stores hope that people will want to shop for the holidays several months before the big days, so they create their displays months in advance to entice customers to buy early and hopefully buy often. The longer that gifts and decorations are in the stores, the more likely that customers will think “Oh, I need that too” and “I forgot to get that—glad I saw it” every single time they enter the store to pick up toilet paper or milk. Early holidays within the four walls of Wal-Mart makes good business sense.

However, I personally find this to be incredibly annoying, not to say a bit depressing. For me, the natural turning of the seasons matters. Summer will end on approximately September 21, which is a little more than a week away. I don’t want to rush that even psychologically. My region usually gets very heavy snowfall by Thanksgiving—it’s been that way for the two years I’ve lived here. Seeing holiday decorations up already is a reminder that all too soon it will be snowing again. As pretty as it looks on the trees, it’s very difficult to drive through, walk through and bundle up against, especially for someone who came from an area that never sees snow.

This isn’t the only reason. The year is not yet over. Accelerated decorating implies that the end is getting closer. I treasure every single day I have. Christmas in September makes me feel like I’ve lost three months. Where did the time go?

Finally, by the time the actual holiday comes around, it’s a huge letdown. The stores have been “celebrating” for weeks. It’s a preparation process that seems never-ending. I feel drawn into the pseudo-festivities every time I walk through those automatic doors. For some reason, this has the effect of making me feel like I missed something by the time October 31, the last Thursday in November and December 25 actually come around.

Maybe it’s a sign of over-commercialism. Maybe I feel “left out” of all the encouraged gaiety because I dislike spending all the money I have just because advertisers tell us we should, even in better economic times. Maybe it just seems especially obnoxious this year to encourage overspending in a recession.

Have we all lost the true meanings of the holidays amidst the artificial pumpkins, silk fall leaves and fake icicles that are already prepared and waiting for conspicuous consumption? Why are we all in such a rush to get to these occasions? When I was younger, the earliest I’d see decorations for the next holiday was two weeks in advance, and I knew that the rule was no gifts until Christmas itself. My parents usually shopped at the end of October before it was popular to avoid the crowds. That’s no longer possible, since the “norm” has become to begin Christmas shopping two months early. Aren’t these days supposed to be “special occasions?” How can they be “special” if they last for several months at a time, beginning out of season and only ending on the originally-intended day of the celebration? At this rate, we’re going to lose track of Christmas’s actual date. In the future, will it be marked on calendars as “November 26-December 25?” Will “Black Friday” be labeled as an official observance along with Independence Day and Easter?

I’m all for some anticipation and preparation. After all, if you do want to decorate your house and buy gifts for your loved ones it takes time, but not several months! Can’t we go back to a two-week window? If nothing else, maybe it would put an end to procrastination. The opposite extreme to someone who buys more stuff every time he or she walks into a store is the person who puts all shopping off until the last minute (as do many people I know) because of a false sense of unlimited time. When the holidays seem to last forever, it’s a rude shock when you realize, too late, that they actually don’t.

I hope I don’t sound like a “Scrooge.” It’s not the hundreds of dollars most people overspend every year that really bothers me. Each individual has the right to do as he or she pleases, including run up huge credit card debts. The fact that I choose not to does not make me better or worse than anyone else, perhaps just a bit more prudent in these uncertain economic times. We certainly can’t expect big businesses to ease up on their high-pressure selling tactics just because people might be better off saving their money by buying fewer gifts. I have always disliked over-commercialization, but I doubt that I’m the only one—Charlie Brown felt that way nearly 50 years ago. It’s the RUSHING that irritates me the most. Every succeeding generation is learning that delayed gratification is a thing of the past. If we want something, we want it RIGHT NOW. It’s no wonder that some children throw “Gimme!” tantrums in the aisles, all year long. Sadly, it’s what they are being taught to do, because their parents probably were taught the same thing.

If I could avoid the stores altogether at this time of year, I would. Obviously, that’s not possible. Therefore, all I can do the next time I enter Target is concentrate on my list and on finding the correct aisle for the things I need. I will walk right past the skeletons and jack-o-lanterns and pretend they don’t exist, at least until October 20. The same thing goes for Christmas decorations—no acknowledgement until December 10.

Then, perhaps when I do look up, I will actually be able to admire the festive displays because it will be the right time of year.

Happy Holidays to all, now and through December!


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