’Tis the Season (From Mid-November to January)

Why Can’t We Just Let Holidays Come To Us? Or Why You Hear Christmas Songs Before Smelling Turkey


Published: November 17, 2010
This is not the first year that stores have offered holiday sales before the official start of the shopping season. Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving, or “Black Friday,” has marked the beginning of this madness set to Christmas music. Increasingly, however, chains such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and, this year, Target, have begun offering discounts days, and in some cases even weeks, prior to the after-Thanksgiving rush. While some see this trend as an opportunity to get their holiday shopping out of the way sooner (and possibly to save money on things they were going to buy anyway but can now pretend are gifts for people), it is not a development that reflects particularly well on us as a society.

I could go on a rant about how this is yet another instance of the cheapening of a once meaningful holiday. That our consumerist culture, which was once a symbol of hard work and prosperity, is increasingly sucking our humanity out through our wallets, leaving us with useless items and empty souls. I could say this, but it’s the same thing everyone says every year. So I won’t say any of it.

What I will say is that this elongation of preparation and celebration, which, depending on the event, should last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, demonstrates a deep-seated cultural need in us for it to always be a holiday. I can vaguely remember a time when Halloween candy and costumes were not on shelves the minute back-to-school shopping went out of vogue. Never, during my 16-plus years of Catholic education, was I told that the Easter season officially begins on Feb. 15. But there they are, every year, without fail: bunny chocolates and Peeps stacked on top of Rite Aid’s remaining red and pink boxes. It’s okay though, those heart candies were all stale by Valentine’s Day, anyway—they had been out since early January.

So why have we become so afraid of ordinary days?

Why, when we know the Radio City Christmas Spectacular doesn’t begin until November, do we get excited when we hear ads for it in mid-September? And the bigger question—why are there people eager to get into the Christmas spirit so far before its time? Advertising only works if there is a market, and we have created quite a market. The problem isn’t that corporations have begun peddling earlier than they used to. The problem is that we welcome it. If we need for it to be a holiday so that our days have meaning, we are facing a bigger issue than commercialization.

As a society, we seem to be incapable of appreciating each day as worthwhile in its own right. It must always be about something else. And so we constantly look forward to the next holiday, and the next, and the next, to fill that void we have created for ourselves. Unfortunately, in trying to make the entire year one big holiday season, we’ve beaten these special days to death. If every day was a holiday, then there would be no holidays. That’s the point—holidays are out of the ordinary.

When I was younger, I would get excited every time I heard Christmas music. To me, it signified a special time, filled with family get-togethers, great food and presents. But now, when I go into Banana Republic and hear Christmas songs playing in early November, I get depressed because I know they are a tease. The holidays are not approaching soon, and I do not identify with any of the joys, woes or red-noses being sung about. What’s worse, I’m sick of these songs by the time it actually is the holiday season.

Now, if Banana Republic would play Adam Sandler’s “The Thanksgiving Song” while I shop, that would be another matter entirely.