Monday, November 4, 2013

Bad 'Isms


Today, a Facebook friend of mine, shared a blog post from two years ago in which she wrote about how retailers were bombarding us with Christmas just as Samhain/Halloween was winding up.  (You can read that here:  http://anthrobum.blogspot.com/2011/12/devolution-of-holidays.html )  This started me reminiscing about Christmases past, thinking about Christmas present, and wondering how bad things will be for Christmases future.
When I was a kid, there was not even a mention of Christmas in my house until Thanksgiving.  My sisters and I would awake Thanksgiving morning, waft downstairs on the aroma of roasting turkey, and find a little gift from Mom for each of us, our first hint that Christmas was on its way.  It was always the same gift.  A Night Before Christmas coloring book and a small box of crayons.  While we colored away at the kitchen table, Mom continued the dinner preparations.  In an annual tradition on a local radio station, at 10 a.m. sharp, a longtime Philadelphia DJ, Pierre Robert, would play Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant (he still does to this day).   Crayons down!  Time to sing and dance with Mom!  For 20 minutes!  Wait for it to come around again on the guitar!  Then, back to cooking and coloring until, at noon, right after Santa appeared miraculously in both the Macy’s parade and the Philadelphia parade (how did he do that?!?), there would be the annual Thanksgiving tradition of watching Miracle on 34th Street.  And none of these colorized or updated versions!  The good old 1947 black and white film with Edmund Gwenn was what we watched on an old little TV in the kitchen, one that you had to use pliers to change the channel.  And that’s when the first of the Christmas commercials, usually from Gimbels, Folgers, Coca Cola and Budweiser, would be aired.  Ahhh, remember those days?

Well, not anymore, Folks.  Not in 2013.  No.  Instead, picture this.  It was the Monday before Samhain.  I needed more pumpkins and Halloween candy.  The hubby and I headed to the local supermarket where there were a ton of pumpkins lined up outside on Sunday, just one day before.  The hubby let me out in front of the store and he took the car to gas up.  I looked around.  No pumpkins.  I headed inside, thinking that they must have moved them indoors.  Maybe they were afraid of the upcoming Mischief Night shenanigans and did not want their merchandise destroyed.  I get inside and walk around the store - the produce aisles, the front, the back, and the middle where the seasonal aisle was.  No pumpkins.  Ok.  Just get my candy and then hunt for a clerk to point me in the direction of the hidden pumpkin display.  Right?  NO!  Where did the Halloween candy go?!  Lucky for me, there was a clerk right there, STOCKING CHRISTMAS CANDY!  And here is the conversation that ensued:
“Excuse me, Miss.  Could you tell me where the Halloween candy is?”

“We have a couple of shelves left around the other side here.”
“Oh.  Okay.  Could you also tell me where the pumpkins are?”

“We don’t have any.”
“Will you be getting another shipment tomorrow?”

“Why would we?”
“Because it is three days before Halloween and 30 days before Thanksgiving.”

Blank stare.
“Oh, I get it.  You guys feel the need to push Christmas on us BEFORE HALLOWEEN EVEN GETS HERE!”

Yes.  I admit it.  I did yell at the poor girl there.  I didn’t mean to do it.  It just happened.  I was just so angry.  My hubby found me wandering aimlessly in the store and I proceeded to rant about commercialism, capitalism and the power of the almighty dollar.  He calmly got me back into the car, drove to another store where they had six – count ‘em! Six! – pumpkins, and picked out the best one.  Mission accomplished.
But that supermarket where I yelled at the poor clerk was not the only offender.  I saw Christmas displays up in all different stores from early September onward.  Really?  I mean, really?  While I was trying to get into the spirit of Mabon, department stores were already decking the halls.  There I am watching The Good Witch series marathon the weekend before Halloween and that channel was advertising that Christmas movies start airing as of November 2nd.  Where are the Thanksgiving movies?  (Are there any?)  I should have known this was where we were headed when I saw Christmas trees for sale a week before Thanksgiving last year.  And people were actually buying them!  I could not imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with a Christmas tree already up in a corner of the living room all aglow, browning as quickly as the turkey.  It’s just…unnatural.

So what will it be in another ten years?  Christmas displays rolling out just as the kids get out of the school for the Summer?  Christmas music and movies just as they go back after Labor Day?  People sipping hot cocoa around a blazing fire, the Christmas tree shining brightly with lights and ornaments, at Easter?  I hope not.
I will continue to follow the rhythm of nature.  My home will be filled with Autumn nearly to the end of the season.  Yule decorating begins in my home right around the second week of December.  My holiday gift shopping will not begin until the week after Thanksgiving.  I do not go out shopping Thanksgiving night or on Black Friday!  My Yule tree will be picked out and brought into my house only a day or two before the Winter Solstice.  I won’t listen to a holiday song until…well, right after Pierre plays Alice’s Restaurant.

It’s all so sad really.  People are missing out on the beauty of Autumn because they are being forced by retailers and corporations to think about the most costly holiday of the year.  There’s a scene in Miracle on 34th Street where Kris Kringle is talking with the young janitor, Alfred, about the commercialism of Christmas which I think sums it all up:  “Yeah, there’s a lot of bad ‘isms floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism.  Make a buck, make a buck.”

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