“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
According to the idealized vision many of us have of the Christmas holidays, ’tis the season of joy, peace and goodwill. In reality, for many years the season has trended toward a time of frantic shopping for the latest “in” toy or other specialized items and bargains. Retailers even began encroaching on the sacred family day of Thanksgiving, jumping the gun on so-called “Black Friday. Thus, I was relieved to see that this year more stores opted to close on Thanksgiving Day, allowing customers as well as store employees some traditional time with their families and friends. Not that this was an entirely altruistic move on the part of the stores; apparently the effort of opening on Thanksgiving Day simply wasn’t worth the trouble. According to Gallup, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are two of the happiest days for Americans, so why mess with that? Isn’t there enough stress in people’s lives without disrupting the enjoyment of these two revered days?
Ironically, Macy’s — the department store known for its warm and fuzzy legendary connection to the Christmas season based on the 1947 classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street — chose to open on Thanksgiving evening. What are Macy’s executives thinking? Of all stores, this is the one that should respect the sanctity and spirit of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a wonderful tribute and introduction to the Christmas Season, but the greed in encouraging the shopping frenzy to start on Thanksgiving Day goes against that spirit. Next year, I hope Macy’s will join Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, T.J. Maxx, Von Maur and many other major stores — including Costco, Sam’s Club, Petco and PetSmart — that closed this past Thanksgiving Day.
Out of the Stores and Into Our Hearts
As even Dr. Seuss’s Grinch has realized, “Christmas….doesn’t come from a store…it’s a little bit more.” Every year, many of us bemoan the commercialization of the season and believe that it’s really over the top when stores of all kinds practice what has become known as “Christmas creep,” that is, putting up Christmas decorations and marketing Christmas products in October and sometimes even earlier.
There is enough frantic shopping during the few weeks preceding Christmas, but stores push the decency envelope when they start promoting months before. But if public opinion can influence some stores to pull back on changing Thanksgiving Day into “Black Thursday,” perhaps it can influence them to wait until after Thanksgiving altogether to launch the official Christmas season.
How the Grinch Can Steal Christmas Creep
Perhaps the Grinch, whose heart started out “two sizes too small” but grew three sizes at the end of the story, could set an example for retail store executives and shareholders to grow their hearts bigger as well. Because we have seen that they’re not only stealing Christmas, they’re stealing Thanksgiving and Halloween, as well. And in It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! they even steal Easter! Speaking of which, in 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas it was Lucy Van Pelt who said, “Look, Charlie, let’s face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It’s run by a big Eastern syndicate, you know.”
Moreover, just as the Grinch has found the Christmas spirit, Christmas creep is turning shoppers into what the Grinch used to be! We need to reverse this trend before it’s so out of hand that it changes people’s psyche toward what should be a season of kindness, tolerance, acceptance and giving of themselves — instead of the “greed is good” mindset of Gordon Gekko or the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who bore no goodwill toward anyone (until he did).
Even consumers who have been tolerant of Christmas creep have their limits. And retailers, not to mention society as a whole, need to remember that there are billions of people who do not celebrate Christmas and probably would prefer not to have this holiday, as lovely as many of us believe it is, overshadow their lives for months.
A Christmas Frame of Mind
As one of those who adores Christmas, and enjoys all the seasonal activities and flurry leading up to it, I would like to see it valued more, kept in context and less commercialized. I’d rather savor Christmas in season, not spread out so that it eclipses other beloved holidays. I love getting together with family and friends and exchanging gifts, decorating the tree, singing carols, baking cookies, making glögg and planning parties and dinners during December. When I can, I collect gifts here and there throughout the year to tuck away in order to offset some of the frenzy and have time to enjoy the spirit of the season. As Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn) said in Miracle on 34th Street, ”Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.”
I agree with Mr. Kringle; what we really need is to get back into that Christmas frame of mind that spreads cheer and goodwill. We need a lot more of the season’s joyful spirit and far, far less cynical creep!
Until next time,
Update: In January, we’ll wrap up (for now) the Wedding Etiquette Series, which will include a post-analysis of daughter Lyn’s October wedding!