Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Voice Crying in the Wilderness Pt. 1

How a Simple Tradition Led from Commercialism to Christ

Early Memories and the Expanding Season
When I was a kid, the Christmas Season started on or about December 1, when the first Christmas catalog arrived. There were three main Catalogs - Sears, JC Penney’s, and Montgomery Ward’s - each about the size of a city phone book, which we kids pored over day after day, imagining what gifts would come Christmas Day, and which gifts we would like to receive if we had fantastically rich and generous relatives. We each had our favorite pages or sections, which we read and re-read until we had them memorized, and continued to read until Christmas.

My parents bought gifts for their parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and us all in the week before Christmas. My dad taught in a Christian school, and my Mom had her hands full with six kids, so money was always tight. I remember them scrambling some years to find just the right gift for each person while remaining within their budget. Still, I expected a gift every year from my parents, each set of grandparents, and every aunt and uncle, simply because that was how it had always been. We rarely sent thank-you notes. I’m not even sure if we ever did.

While we were preoccupied with gifts, our obsession lasted less than a month. We thought those people who started their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving were eccentric - perhaps slightly admirable for being so organized, but definitely strange. When our church started a program called “Christmas in October” to collect gifts for missionary families and allow time to ship them overseas, they capitalized on the novelty - it sounded as strange as celebrating Independence Day in February.

I noticed stores putting up Christmas decorations a little earlier each year, and more and more retailers sending out flyers, pamphlets, and full-fledged catalogs for early, mid-, and late holiday shopping. Each portion of the season expanded in turn, until it was as long as the whole season had been. When I saw Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween, I felt that Thanksgiving was being neglected. When I saw them in early October, I decided merchants were attempting to expand their most profitable season until it covered the calendar.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Bob Wingate said...

Interesting on how it depends on the type of merchandise the store sells.

Typical retail "Black Friday" - maybe six or eight years ago I got up at a truly stupid early hour (what we call "oh-dark-thirty"), and drove to Wal-Mart. Got out of the car and stood outside in line. Having nothing better to do, and to take my mind off the cold, I tried to estimate the crowd...350 or so, I thought. Wrong. A little over half an hour later the doors opened, and I noticed a couple of people just inside, watching and clicking hand-held counters. I had gotten about 20 feet inside the door when I heard over the intercom something like, "Attention Wal-Mart shoppers! There are 1,054 of you in the store". Just wanted us to know I guess, and now I'm not sure that was the exact number. Close, though. And I don't remember what I was looking for on sale, just that they were out before I got to the display. So I left, got in the car, and noticed I was low on gas. Needless to say the parking lot exits weren't designed with that mass of humanity in mind, and it took me one hour and five minutes to get on the road. By then I was seriously concerned that I would run out of gas and get stuck there. But I made it to the nearest station, and I decided then I would never again go to Wal-Mart on "Black Friday". So far I've stuck to that.

Art supplies - In the 1980's I worked in an art supply store. Their Christmas season peaked some weeks earlier than Thanksgiving, as the artists and crafters were aware of the amount of lead time they'd need to make their gifts. The day after Thanksgiving was actually quiet, but we could look out the window at some of the other retail establishments and watch the chaos across the street.

Home decor - four years ago I worked at a place called Old Time Pottery, a discount home decor store based in Tennessee (Garden Ridge was our main competitor, we ran them out of town). Okay, I hope you're sitting down for this...we would begin to stock some of the Christmas items on July 5th. Not exactly sure of the reason, except that's what was on the truck and as the flower pot / tiki torch / patio umbrella sales had slacked off, all that stuff went to the back room...and it was time to rearrange the shelves for ornaments and lights.

November 26, 2009 at 12:09 AM  

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