Monday, November 7, 2011

Why you can get over this "Christmas comes early" business:

Many of you know that I’m working retail these days to help pay my bills.  If you didn’t before, you do now!  And another thing that you may not have known… it’s freaking Christmas season already.  It was *actually* Christmas the day before Halloween for me, when I was at work doing a floor-set of products for holiday stockings, entrenched in gaudy gold packing material and fake plastic snow.  THE DAY BEFORE HALLOWEEN.  I was somewhat shocked, having never remembered how the last third of the year was apparently one long string of holiday bleeding into holiday, confusing everyone with which greeting card to send and which cookies to bake at which time.

Last week my store started playing Christmas music.  One of the customers actually said that it’s been proven that people buy more if there is Christmas music playing.  Whether or not it’s because they feel more generous, or if it’s because they’re annoyed enough to rush out of a store quicker, I don’t know.  But there’s psychology to it, I guess.

I think more surprising to me than this oddly early holiday fervor is the marked backlash that it has had.  True, I have often found myself uttering how unprepared I was for Christmas *already*, but upon reflection, I wondered what it was that had people so bent out of shape.  Is it the fact that we should all be out shopping for our loved ones?  Is it the anticipation of stressful family situations and that chest-tightening panic at the last minute when you realize you’ve forgotten something really important, like pie?!  (But seriously, that’s an exaggeration.  No one could forget pie.)  Is it our impatience and frustration at having to wait in longer lines wherever we are going, be fake-nicer to people “for Jesus” and face down the looming financial repercussions of our months of seasonal gluttony?  Is it that we have to (ugh) stop whining about our own problems and think about other people?

I confess, I found myself having those anxious breaths of late.  As one of the wretched poor unpaid interns and underpaid seasonal workers, things will be a bit sparse this year.  Honestly, it’s depressing for me.  My family and friends are the most important things in the entire world to me (even more that Guinness and bacon) and I always struggle with finding the right gifts for them.  This year, I just plain can’t afford everything that I’d love to lavish on my people.  I lamented this fact to my mom the other day, with no small amount of self-pitying grumpusness.  She was kind as she always is, and assured me that homemade gifts were *the* best and often the most memorable and I sighed and nodded and got off the phone, not really believing her—at first.  But then, the more I thought about it, the calmer I became.  While I love useful, wonderful gifts that I’ve received over the years—the KitchenAid stand mixer and iPad come to mind—some of my most cherished items are the quilts that my mom has made for me.  And the scarf that my sister knitted my mom one year (which I have since pilfered and have worn nearly threadbare) and the emergency kit supplies that my Dad has thoughtfully put together (this would probably make more sense if you knew my Dad).  The same goes for gifts that friends have made for me over the years.

So, you know what?  It’s okay.  Sure, given the funds, I would buy everyone I love private islands populated by magical wishing unicorns and velociraptor pets that you could ride around and unlimited supplies of bacon doughnuts and Guinness and technology that even the military was afraid of and sparkly tiaras made of platinum and rainbows… because they all deserve those things.  But they’ll all get handmade gifts from me this year, and they’ll be just as excited as if they were getting unlimited bacon doughnuts, because they love me.  That’s what “the holiday season” is actually about, you guys, and why it’s so silly to rally against it.  If corporations are advertising early to make more money, that’s their prerogative, but it’s really up to you to choose how you’re going to respond.  You can either spend the time hyperventilating about getting your coupons in order, or you can chill out and actually remember that the holidays are really about finding ways to show your people that you care about them.  If I’m reminded of that in October instead of December, so much the better.

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