March 29, 2020
Column

Christmas joy lost to Xmas creep

Until I saw the story on the business pages of the morning paper, I didn’t know the disturbing trend in the retailing world had its own official name.

As you might have read, the business experts from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania are calling it “Christmas creep.” It’s an apt description indeed for the profit-driven phenomenon that seems hellbent on eliminating all sense of seasonal order in the universe and turning the calendar into a blur of overlapping holidays that no longer have a clear beginning or end.

But while the name may be new, the premature encroachment of Christmas hype in the bigger department stores has been around for years now, and appears to be getting worse all the time.

Halloween looks to be holding its own nicely against the Christmas-merchandising juggernaut, but Thanksgiving – one of our purest and most meaningful of national observances – is at risk of getting blown right off the map by a yuletide onslaught that’s more than two months long and growing.

How I long for the good old days when we had the decency to hold off on all of the commercial madness until Santa showed up on his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Now, sad to say, jingle bells piggyback on the warm breezes of Indian summer while competing for holiday prominence with the goblins of Halloween and the roars of Thanksgiving football games. These days, it’s all one big swollen celebration, with the special days of fall and winter merged into one.

Each year I try to put it all out of my mind and make believe that it’s not really happening this fast, that the Christmas season really can’t be upon us before the leaves have fallen from the trees. I prefer to concentrate instead on where I am in real time rather than the artificial one created earlier every year by the purveyors of yuletide cheer.

What’s the point of even observing Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally kicks off the shop-till-you-drop season, when the stores have already been parading their Christmas merchandise before the World Series has even played out?

A few years back, a new wrinkle was added to this Christmas-without-end business. Some radio stations here in Maine started churning out Christmas music at least two weeks before we had a chance to sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners.

It’s bad enough that we’re subjected to TV ads for holiday music collections by early September, and that stores shamelessly plaster Santa’s rosy-cheeked countenance alongside the Pilgrim cutouts and turkey decorations. But having to listen to Burl Ives warbling “Frosty the Snowman” while driving, or being subjected to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” when the actual holiday is still a month and a half away can cause a sense of disorientation in reasonable people, as if they’re being trapped in a time warp right in their own cars.

By the time Christmas finally arrives, we’re all so exhausted and stressed-out from winter-wonderland overload that we barely have enough strength to summon a joyful thought.

Not to sound like a Scrooge, but it’s awfully difficult to generate a proper spirit of seasonal goodwill when it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – by mid-October.


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