Shopping for Halloween candy a few weeks ago, I walked smack into a store display of tinsel and garland and bright blinking lights. It was 88 degrees that day. The humidity was stuck at insufferable and a tropical storm churned over the warm waters of the Atlantic.
I scratched my head: What holiday were we celebrating again?
Excuse my confusion, but I think the retail world has fast-forwarded to the end of the year, trampling over Halloween and Thanksgiving in its rush to sell and celebrate. Instead of plastic pumpkins, there are Santas on the shelf. Tom Turkey is sharing space with green-hatted elves.
I don’t like it. It’s irritating and confusing and out of control. Way too commercial, too. I’ve barely gotten over the back-to-school sales, the ones that now come on the heels of Independence Day, and it’s already Christmas in the stores.
Everything should have its season, every holiday its month. Valentine’s belongs to February, Memorial Day to May, and Labor Day closes summer with a last gasp of heat and freedom. October invites Halloween and November dances with Thanksgiving.
So December — not September, not October, not November — should be devoted to Christmas. Leave those fall months unblemished by ornaments and wrapping paper. They have their own commitments to tradition. Then again I may just be spitting into the wind. At the rate we’re going, we’ll begin the rituals of Christmas in March by the turn of the decade.
Spotting Christmas trees and Nativity Scenes in October is . . . well, exhausting. Moving the holiday up only means I’m pretty much drained of seasonal cheer by December. It’s hard to maintain a modicum of joy and goodwill for so long.
Christmas Creep is not new. But in the past few years it seems it arrives earlier and earlier, making me feel grinchier and grinchier. Let’s be frank here: Turkey and stuffing and college football are quickly becoming nothing more than the run-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And if you really want to get a head start on your gift list, Thanksgiving is simply a hurried feast before the afternoon crush at Walmart and Target. Soon Turkey Day might be known as Gray Thursday.
Everybody says they hate Christmas Creep. Bring it up in conversation and people are sure to whine about it. We don’t want our jack-o’-lanterns keeping company with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Last year a survey conducted by the data firm Rich Relevance found 71 percent of U.S. adults claiming they were “annoyed or very annoyed” to see Christmas items in stores before Halloween. The annoyance ratio dipped to 59 percent among those ages 18 to 29, probably because that generation has been subjected, and is thus immune, to such torture.
But don’t be fooled. We often say one thing and do another. The National Retail Federation has long said that consumers like to shop early, and that’s why retailers put out the Christmas merchandise in the first place. In the organization’s annual Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, the NRF found that 40 percent of holiday shoppers begin before Halloween, another 41.5 percent in November.
So in the spirit of the season, I’m going to try to put a positive spin on this plague. If the early onset of Christmas is now an irreversible part of our ever-growing commercialism, then I want to make a bid to receive holiday cookies from the neighbors by Veterans Day.