Christmas seems to start earlier every year. The holiday is on the same day (December 25) every year, which is a rare character trait in a religious holiday. But the engines seem to start before the leaves on the tree have become the leaves on the ground. A completely unscientific and utterly unsubstantiated analysis (known more commonly as the “because I say so” analysis) would suggest that the retailing of Christmas pushes back one full week every five years. Now before you get all “wait a minute, how many revolutions of the calendar are we on now”, no this phenomenon did not start 2012 years ago. It began somewhere around the time when shopping became more than a means to an end.
Christmas is make or break time for most retailers. End of year sales account for the biggest percentage of their annual sales. (Depending on the type of retail, back-to-school can be a close second.) Naturally, retailers long for a longer period of time to bolster sales. It isn’t necessarily intuitive that a longer period creates more sales. The goal (i.e., presents under the tree) is theoretically the same regardless of the time it’s given to achieve. But sales must increase or why else would it be done? It is hard to imagine how a longer span of time spent with blaring Christmas songs pummeled into our ears makes us spend more. Increased exposure to Christmas themed merchandise wears down the novelty. Ten weeks of eyeing Santa themed apparel will lead to the realization; “Wait. I’m giving this to him/her on Christmas Day! When will they wear this? Next late October?!” What’s clearer is that ‘doorbuster’ sales gets ’em in the store. It’s safe to assume that a fair percentage of those $5 flat screen televisions aren’t going under the tree but up on the bleary eyed shoppers’ wall.
This year even more retailers are pushing their ‘busting’ back. Black Friday is becoming the power-shopping day for amateurs as Thanksgiving Day shopping comes into its own. This rankles some people. Thanksgiving is seen as a sacred family time. It is one of the few times of year that people come together simply to be together. The dining table is heaped with tangible proof of tradition and longevity. It’s also the holiday (perhaps like Christmas) when most of the responsibility for making it happen falls to one member of the family. Unlike Christmas it’s a holiday when some people (who perhaps did not prepare the meal and unearth all the serving ware) park themselves in front of the television for a sport marathon. For some (if not many) the holiday is spent with people who are (or who have been) mean to them or are flat out obnoxious. For many others there is no one to share the holiday (either by choice or not.) In other words; Thanksgiving is not sacred to everyone.
If shopping is a way out of the house, and a way to choose how one’s time is spent, so be it. Those 5 AM drastically reduced priced household appliances and toys are a huge help to many families. They will help to make Christmas happen for many who could really use a break. For others who are doing okay, those heavily discounted items will help them with their (much needed) gift donations this year.
There is nothing sacred about Thanksgiving; it just feels like that because all the other really sacred holidays have been co-opted. It is a delicious holiday, with a great parade and for some of us lucky ones, some wonderful and loving memories. For some it’s a much needed and rare day off with an opportunity to make a serious impact on their to-do list. There’s more than one way to experience this or any other day. I would no more take to the sprawling front lawn with a football in hand than I would take a fork to a tofurky. But lots of people would (okay, lots of people would play touch football and some people would eat tofurky.) Just like there’s always room for more pie, there’s room for everyone and their choices this time and every time of year.