It's a common gripe around the holidays, "Christmas just flew by," or "it seems to start earlier every year." It's true, especially as you get older. When you're not riddled with insomnia the night before in anticipation of the Red Ryder you know is under the tree, the Christmas season isn't just time for tree trimming parties and eggnog, but also a burdensome source of anxiety, travel, and shopping malls packed with frenzied last minute shoppers.
But ever since Macy's first Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas season has begun the day after, Black Friday. And although as a child that month seemed an eternity, as an adult those 30 days are a perfectly respectable amount of time to shop, throw parties, and put up some decorations. As one of our nation's largest holidays for both the religious and secular, however you decide to celebrate, one month is plenty of time. I
n recent years a number of retailers have attempted to push the envelope, starting sales and installing Santa displays in the weeks before Thanksgiving, but not until this year has there been such a unified attempt to start the official season a month early.
The city's lights seemed to go up the day after Halloween. No one even complained about religious verbiage on government buildings and public schools, not because people have become more sympathetic or patient, but because we were so blindsided by Christmas this year that the complaint department didn't know where and when to register.
One month in, people were stuffing themselves with turkey and ham wondering where the Christmas tree was, forgetting that it was still a month away. The season has become the cultural equivalent of carrying a baby to term or planning a wedding, ending in a deep depression the day after New Years that comes back to bite you in the ass on February 14th. Only we have to do it every year.
In the longest Christmas season the nation has ever seen, it went by faster than ever. Articles chastising merchants for opening stores at midnight outnumbered uplifting stories about Yule Time revelry and anonymous acts of kindness.
By December 25th, colorful lights and beautiful window displays were nothing more than white noise which retailers couldn't wait to replace with the day-after sales. We had the baby, the wedding is over, and we're left with nothing but the nagging notion that we only have ten more months until we have to do it all over again.
We broke Christmas, a holiday fast losing any real significance outside the farms of Lancaster County. If the seasonal sprawl repeats itself in the future, retailers may find thousands of consumers too exhausted to bother.
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