The War on ChristmasPosted: November 16, 2012 Filed under: Culture | Tags: America, Christmas, commercialism, culture, society 147 Comments
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the next person who mentions Christmas before I taste turkey gets a kick in the jingle bells. It’s not that I’m a Grinch (although my sister, the Christmas Elf, will gladly tell you otherwise). It’s just that my ability to enjoy the Christmas season is inversely proportional to my level of exposure to it. Don’t get me wrong; we have our holiday traditions, and I love them all. The music, the food, the decorations; most of all I will never forget the look on my sister’s face the year I finally slipped the lump of coal into her stocking for a change. But I digress. The point is that these moments are beautiful because they are rare, they are fleeting, and thereby they are magical.
I remember when I was a kid (and I have never felt older than when I typed those words) there seemed to be an understood rule: Christmas didn’t start until after Thanksgiving. Sure, you might see a few commercials about the big sale at your local department store on Black Friday in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, but it was always in the background, like the siren song of savings before the mad rush of commercialism truly began. First came the parade, Dad would yell at the TV while he watched football all day, then the turkey, and you finished off the night with The Wizard of Oz. The next day would come with its marathon of shopping quite soon enough, and Santa’s lap would be waiting all month long for you to whisper your list of impossible desires to be passed on to your long-suffering parents.
In the last twenty years, and particularly I’ve been noticing it in the last yen years, it’s like the stores can’t wait for Christmas to start. They’re worse than the kids. My roommate told me he was in one store, which shall remain nameless (but it rhymes with K-Mart), and they had a Christmas aisle set up already. Oh, I forgot to mention: this was three weeks before Halloween. It was right next to the Halloween aisle; talk about one-stop shopping. I’m surprised they didn’t have chocolate bunnies out, too.
It can’t be the economy, or trying to lure in the “early shoppers”, because they were doing it before the economy tanked, and there have always been early shoppers (my mother is still finding gifts she “hid” back in August… of 1998). It’s like someone decided to hell with the unspoken rule, and once one person crosses that neutral zone and gets away with it, everyone else jumps on board, and I for one think it’s time we all take a stand. We mock people who leave their Christmas lights up on their homes more than a few weeks into the new year; isn’t it time we boycott stores that put theirs up more than a few weeks before the holiday? Don’t we deserve a chance to celebrate one holiday at a time?
Am I the only one who has seen Mame? Does no one else know the song “We Need a Little Christmas”? There’s a reason that song resonates, and it’s because Christmas is supposed to be a special time, a time of magic and joy. But to be special, it has to be rare. When Christmas gets pushed back so far that it literally becomes “Christmas in July” as the marketing campaigns of my youth used to say, where’s the magic? Doesn’t Santa deserve a few months off?
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Well said! And if i hear ‘All I Want for Christmas’ one more time …
Or “Last Christmas”…
Well, I am a self confessed Grinch, so there! As I said recently, Christmas is great when you’re a man or a kid (sorry…). Not so much when all the ‘fun, magic’ stuff is up to you!
It doesn’t surprise me anymore when we return from holiday and see christmas cards and “early” chocolates in our supermarkets…. in August! We’ll see the Easter goodies turn up in February, as soon as the sale shelves are cleared too.
Halloween and all its trimmings has been forced on us British for a few years now. Whether we fight back or not is in the balance. There is much complaining (which we are good at), I’m not sure we will fight back and not buy whatever is pushed our way. Marketing is a powerful tool on kids!
People are going to think I am nuts for saying this but there should be some kind of law that states that Christmas decorations should not go up before 1st December. I walked into a garden centre back in October to be greeted by a Christmas tree dressed for Halloween *sigh*. The way things are going Christmas Decorations will be going up in January…Bah humbug…
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Totally agree. When I was growing up, back in medieval times, the Christmas season began in early December, decorations went up around mid-month, and Mum and Dad started going nuts around the 18th or so, around the same time school let out for the holidays.
That seems archaic compared to today, when Easter sweets are sold in January, Christmas ornaments sold in October and Hallowe’en sweets can be found in August.
I blame the fashion industry for this, which their promoting of next year’s fashions today.
This post makes me laugh as I said something similar to a friend yesterday as we passed a grocery store with “Santa’s Here!” on the sign. I live in Canada and Thanksgiving is long past. But it still seems a little early for “santa” to be here! I don’t have a problem with people decorating “wintery” and getting their houses ready for the season – but the early commercialism of the holiday is a bit unnerving this year.
Christmas? We’ve got Easter Eggs in the shops.
My family would love you for this post! I side more with your sister on this one 🙂 Still though, this is hilarious. Thanks for sharing!
Not that I disagree, but I hear this a lot every year, and nobody really does anything about it. Lately, the complaint has grown more into concern over stores starting “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving night. “I am boycotting stores who do this!” Well, okay… but it’s an overwhelming number of stores and an underwhelming number of people willing to do anything about it. I say that, knowing full well that I acknowledge it should be different and will make no effort to right that wrong. Just being honest.
Great post though. 🙂
You’re right, lots of people complain about it, very few people do anything about it. In the end it may well come down to expressed preferences – the stores will gladly take all the vitriol as long as they get scolded all the way to the bank.
And when everyone is doing it, how do you decide who to boycott? And how will they get the message? Those are more rhetorical questions, of course. Ah well. At least we know Christmas in our space is done right, eh? 🙂
For now, at least. For now… 🙂
Hallmark has their Christmas ornament premiere in July and has since the beginning of time (well, time as I measure it. I worked for them right after high school 20 years ago). I learned a couple of things. As soon as one holiday comes down or is consolidated, the next holiday is stocked so that there aren’t embarrassing empty shelves. It’s why you literally see Valentine’s day go up the day after Christmas.
That being said, don’t play Christmas carols in department stores until at least the middle of November. Because just don’t. It’s not Christmas until people have trampled each other to death for $1 DVDs.
There is a nationality – I won’t mention which one so as to avoid being accused of anything I’m not – which put their Christmas trees up in SEPTEMBER!!!!!
I am with you on getting stores to go easy on how early they get stuck into all the holiday seasoning… I am a huge fan of Christmas, but at Christmas time, like you say!
Enjoyable post, thanks 🙂
I hate Christmas too: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/why-i-hate-christmas/
I heard my first Christmas song yesterday in a shop and within 10 minutes I bought my first Christmas present. It’s a big scam and I will not be going shopping again until at least the 24th December!
I am with you 100%. I believe that the only stores that should be allowed to show holiday stuff in advance are the craft stores, so that those of us who make things for the holidays can get them made in time. Other than that, all I can say is that my parents never let us listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving, and the tree came down New Year’s Day.
I guess I can get behind the craft stores showing out early. As for Christmas music, you hit the nail on the head; Dad would break out the Big Box of Christmas Music the day after Thanksgiving, along with all the decorations, and we would start listening as we decorated the house (and put together the tree. Ah, I remember putting together the tree.) But that was it. And everything came down about a week after New Year’s.
Omg fabulous ! 🙂 think I feel a post coming on about us brits and our pathetic starting Christmas in September thing!!!! As I type this in work I can hear the flat above playing Christmas hits full blast ….one more chestnuts roasting on an open fire and I will scream ! 🙂 great post, Ceri x
And what’s with these radio stations playing exclusive Christmas music already?
I know, right? There’s not one but two here! I can be fine with it throughout December, and in fact I rather like it. Why? Because I look for Christmas music IN DECEMBER. But not now!
Whew!! Thank you – I was feeling guilty about not having put up the tree yet!
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Love the humor and you are right on at every point! The Christmas season begins AFTER Thanksgiving! I will NEVER be a “Black Friday” shopper whether they start at 8PM on Thanksgiving or the stroke of midnight on Fri.! I usually start shopping around the first week of December and the tree (fresh cut) goes up around the 15th of December. That’s when I really start getting into the spirit of the holiday. Slow I know, but that’s just me (haha)! Congrats for being Freshly Pressed!
Loved that post!
Me and my family, we have a rather different tradition, which is a bit tricky to uphold: Christmas decoration and Christmas baking starts at the beginning of December, but Christmas celebrations start only after my birthday on the 22nd.
And if they start singing carols before that day, I´ll turn into the Grinch myself 🙂
I agree…..thank goodness here in my part of ruralish spain, you don´t get an inkling of christmas until just days before. Right now there is not one single christmasy item in any of the local shops.
My neighbours are still resting from their summer fiesta and will not even begin to think of christmas until christmas eve, when they will buy a little extra special food for Noche buena.The big family meal eaten christmas eve. A few gifts for children will be bought the week after christmas, to be given on Kings Day, Epiphany, on 6th January. Usually, the children get clothes.
Christmas day is spent sometimes in church or more often asleep, following the big meal the night before.
You should spend the run up to christmas here….
Lovely post. Reminds me of the mum in “Almost Famous”. Her children bemoan her for making them “celebrate Christmas on a day in September when it hasn’t yet been commercialised!”
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I agree with you! My kids are begging for me to put up the Christmas tree because they see Christmas all over. I refuse to cave in to the Christmas demands because we still have Thanksgiving to enjoy.
Bravo!! So well said. I fear we are well on the way to having a perpetual, year-round Christmas season to match our perpetual, year-round election season.
What happened to the religious part of Christmas. I wonder if there is a religious part to this celebration?
Most of the Western Christmas traditions are NOT connected to the Abrahamic religions, and much of the identifiable Easter symbols are pagan in origin as well. Although the Roman Catholic Church (and to a lesser extent, the Greek Orthodox) co-opted many of this and other native pagan symbolisms to broaden their appeal and influence, much of their associations are fading. I have noticed the Mexican/Mexican American press starting to note that Santa Claus is supplanting the traditional gift givers of the Three Kings in many Hispanic communities.
I am with you on this! And I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m Canadian and our Thanksgiving was weeks ago. Christmas can wait until December. Congrats on the FP!
Buy Nothing Day! Everyday!
Love your thoughts on this!
I work for an inventory company. I can attest to what your roommate said: Two particular national-chain drug stores had xmas paraphernalia stocked a few weeks before Halloween.
It certainly has gotten worse in the last 5 years, particularly. I think it has to do with the recent recession and continuing economic malaise – the corporate machine wants its profits.
Oh well. It is what it is. This is still my favorite time of year, even in spite of the holiday rush.
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There is no Halloween or Thanksgiving in Australia so there is nothing slowing down the stores rushing into stocking shelves with Christmas paraphernalia. I hate it!
I absolutely agree. The mall in my hometown ALWAYS puts christmas decorations up in October and it has always bothered me. There is no christmas in October, so why are there decorations up? Christmas is too material-focused anyway.
I keep seeing Christmas stuff earlier and earlier each year. In fact, as early as June, when you can see last year´s puddings and other things retailers couldn´t sell. We all need a little magic throughout the year, not just at Christmas.
Well instead of seeing it as a pet peeve, see it as a change. We can’t deny the fact that commercialism has consumed us all, even you acknowledged it. Christmas used to start after Thanksgiving. Now, people want to start earlier (much, much, much earlier) because it’s just a wonderful time. And many large department store corporations pick up on that. Which is why you see Christmas commercials during Halloween and Thanksgiving season. As a result, people anticipate sales much more now. Last night on the news, they said it was predicted that there will be one million people more people shopping on Black Friday in comparison to last year. Times are changing and people would much rather shop and save than enjoy the season to be jolly.
I acknowledge the reality of what is, but can still hope for what was and yet might be again. I don’t expect there to be NO commercialism in the holiday season, and in fact it wouldn’t be the Christmas I remember if the malls didn’t have Santas and reindeer and the whole nine yards. I just want to have jack o’lanterns in October, turkeys in November, and Christmas in December. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but if I can’t ask Santa for that, who can I ask?
and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that
I very much agree. Too much exposure to anything takes away the joy.
I remember being a little kid and asking my mom why we couldn’t have Christmas every day. She told me exactly the same thing you argue for here, and explained how it was a shortened, special time of the year, and that’s what made it “feel,” the way it did. Having worked in retail very briefly, putting out the displays in mid-October really does suck the magic out of it.
I agree completely. You had me roaring with laughter at your first sentence. There’s a store here where I live that traditionally puts up their Christmas things around the fourth of July! CRAZY!! I just can not even think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.
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I’ve alway’s liked Christmas lights and a lot of the music associated with the season. If there were a command to celebrate or observe Christmas in the Bible I would probably do so.
“But to be special, it has to be rare.” Well said. It seems as if the ‘holiday season’ starts up earlier every year. Nowadays, it seems as if we have to force ourselves to not get caught up in the rush of things. The ‘holiday season’ needs to have a special and truly reserved time – not one that is just lost in the busyness.
“But to be special, it has to be rare.” Perfectly stated. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
Absolutely agree! I LOVE Christmas, but seeing a Christmas aisle before Halloween makes me want to puke.
Hear hear! I’m so sick of Christmas creeping into stores in August and September!
So agree on this. Prolonging/extending Christmas devalues the magic of it (not that I feel too much magic anymore since I’m not a kid) and turns it away from the original meaning of religion and feast and family into just shopping,s hopping, shopping! The principles of economics are…disgusting
I agree and had heard an evil rumor that some stores were going to be open ON Thanksgiving. Has everyone gone MAD???? Just found it on line. It’s true!!!!!!!!!!
Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
I believe it was “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” where one of the characters (Sally, maybe?) walked into a department store and there was a Christmas sale and signs proclaiming that it was already only so many days until Christmas. Proof it’s been going on for a long time. And yes, it’s getting worse. Pretty soon Black Friday will start November 1st, and the presale will start in September. 🙂 Sad.
Totally agree, way to commercial and way to early, takes the magic out of it…even the kids are over it by the time we get to d day!!