Monday, November 21, 2011

The Twelve Weeks of Christmas

I have a problem. I call it Early Christmas. Being myself a member of the “Media Elite”, I try to avoid blaming the media for the ails of society. But in this case, the media shares a large chunk of the blame. The rest of the blame goes to the general American public, or as we Media Elites call them, Dumb Americans. (We don’t really call them that, but you probably wouldn’t understand the actual term we use anyway.)

Every last one of my Facebook friends is acutely aware of the vitriol I have toward pre-Thanksgiving Christmas ads, decorations, and music. My aggravation has been especially acute this year as the very first Christmas-themed ad to be shoved down my throat aired BEFORE Halloween. Granted, it was an ad for Avon which relies on orders placed far out in advance, but I just could not handle jingly music in mid-October. It only got worse from there.

It seams that advertisers now define “restraint” in jumping the gun on Christmas as waiting until after Halloween rather than Thanksgiving. I didn’t see too many other Christmas ads through the rest of October, but on November 1 all bets were off. Red bows, Christmas trees, Santa, and jingly music abound on TV. I couldn’t get through an evening of TV watching without getting some cliche Christmas song trapped in my brain. Meanwhile, three decorative pumpkins sit outside our apartment while leaves of all colors float down gently from the trees. It’s disjointed and confusing. What happened to Thanksgiving? What did it do to deserve this kind of treatment?

Like most mental issues we experience as adults, this can likely be traced back to my childhood. When I was a boy (please be sure to imagine me saying that phrase in my best old man voice) November was a time for gourds and corn stocks, some of which were economically re-purposed after Halloween. There were pilgrims and horns of plenty. Orange and yellow and brown adorned my elementary school. Nobody so much as mentioned Christmas. Oh sure, there were a few folks quietly doing their shopping ahead of the holiday rush, but the key word there is “quietly”. We looked forward to Thanksgiving. We anticipated the food and the family and the football. And then -- after we had stuffed ourselves like good Americans and passed out with a game on the TV -- the next morning, it was on. It was time for Christmas, so watch out! Black Friday meant it was time to get out the advent calendar and start buying like there was no tomorrow. The tree usually went up the following weekend. And with all of that came the ads on TV. Then, and only then did the red bows and Christmas trees and Santa and the jingly music on TV fit into the context of what was going on in real life. The leaves were down. And where I come from, snow often coated the ground. It all came together so perfectly.

There’s actually a term for what’s happened since then. Christmas creep. And we all know why it happens. Retailers want to get people shopping earlier and earlier, hoping that they won’t stop just because they’ve checked off everything on their list. Whether this actually works or not is debatable. But even if people aren’t actually buying more, they’re at least buying into the notion that we ought to start celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier. Businesses trying to press us into Christmas is one thing, people actually doing it is another. I don’t recall anyone putting up their decorations so early before this year. I honestly can’t think of a single person who put their Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving. But this year through the immeasurable magic of Facebook, I know of at least 3 people who have already put up their tree and lights.

Now a lot of people freakin’ love Christmas and they want to get started with it as soon as possible. But here’s the thing. I freakin’ love Christmas too. And part of it for me is that anticipation. When Black Friday hits, it’s on! On that day I am off and running. I’m actually probably slightly (read: extremely) obnoxious about loving Christmas. But having it slowly creep in before Halloween undermines that anticipation and, frankly, runs the risk of burning the whole thing out before we even get close to December 25th. I know how I am with Christmas. People should not have to put up with that crap for more than a month.

I suppose what really disturbs me about this is that I’d like to think people see right through obvious tactics by marketers and advertisers. But with Facebook posts and Tweets about people “being too excited to wait” and “embracing Christmas in November”, it's clear people are doing exactly what the advertisers want them to. There’s an awareness of the pressure of Early Christmas, but at the same time people embrace it. I hate to tell you, but just because you’re aware that you’re willingly being a corporate shill doesn’t make you any less of a shill. Your shilliness is still abundant.

But, in spite of all my Early Christmas rage being focused into apoplectic Facebook posts and Tweets, up have gone the trees and lights. Strangely, I am unable to control peoples’ minds. Black Friday cannot get here fast enough so I can join the insanity instead of railing against it. In the meantime, the best I can do is mute the TV when Christmas ads come on, write a sardonic blog about my plight, and take a sip of eggnog to comfort myself. Eggnog!? I mean HOT APPLE CIDER! Curse you, Early Christmas!