We are in the heart of fall, my favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to turn into their beautiful shades of yellow, orange and brown and falling to grace the green ground. The nightly temperature drop finally plummets into what can be properly called cold. Football rules every weekend, and t-shirts and flip-flops disappear in favor of long-forgotten sweatshirts and proper shoes. Nestled between still-warm October and quickly cooling December, November is the essence of autumn.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I walked into Kroger last week to get some items to prepare for another football-filled weekend and, in the middle of an aisle, stood a Christmas tree, adorned with simple ornaments and candy encircling it, a sweet tooth’s dream.
This promotion, along with the arrival of the occasional Christmas carol on the radio and the television commercials peppered among our programs advocating early gift shopping, mark the beginning of the Christmas season. Black Friday – the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season – is already forefront in many merchandisers’ advertisements. It seems to me – and to many of you, I’m sure – that the start of the Christmas season comes earlier every year. This year seems particularly early, not even pretending to respect Thanksgiving. Stores have gone straight from pushing Halloween to Christmas.
This phenomenon, which I’ve coined the Christmas Creep, allows Christmas consideration to creep earlier and earlier on our calendar’s each year. Having worked at an arts and crafts store in my teenage years, I’m well acquainted with the phenomenon. In that store, the first Christmas decorations would make their appearance shortly after the fourth of July, months removed from the holiday they celebrated.
Why does the Christmas Creep happen? Everyone remarks on it, there are spirited debates surrounding whether it’s appropriate to play Christmas music before Thanksgiving, and yet every year, Christmas time comes earlier. There are two quintessentially American characteristics driving the Christmas Creep – commercialization and future orientation.
Commercialization is not surprise. Nearly everyone knows the commercial and, at times, superficial nature of the United States economy. Retailers thrive on driving kids to desire the latest toys, gadgets and gizmos, and these kids push their parents to the stores. But retailers understand the economy is tough and not everyone can put hundreds of dollars down on gifts right now, which is why those layaway commercials circulate on nearly every channel. Many businesses rely on the Christmas season to push their bank accounts into the black, forcing them to push their wares excessively to draw in consumers. The Christmas Creep is as much a function of retailers rushing to draw in wallets first as anything else.
A more intriguing cause, however, of the Creep is America’s typical future-oriented thinking. America is, and always has been, a country that focuses on the future as a source of sustenance and prosperity. Indeed, it’s this form of thinking that has pushed the American economy to unparalleled levels.
However, it’s also this form of thinking that has prevented America from enjoying the present. Never pausing to appreciate the view, America continuously pushes forward. As soon as Halloween is over, Christmas is coming. As soon as that’s over, it’s New Years, then focus on Valentine’s Day – so on and so forth, year after year. As soon as a presidential election is held, we’re focusing on the next one, four years removed. As soon as a champion in any sport is crowned, we’re looking forward to the next season.
This translates heavily into personal lives as well. In high school, we’re told to do things to prepare us for college. In college, it’s prepping for the real world. And in the real world, it’s racing for the next promotion, again and again. It’s a rat race that we’ve forced ourselves in, and there’s no escaping it.
How many of us, as kids, dreamt of hitting the winning shot or winning the championship, rising to be the hero in the big moment? Almost all of us. But what happens when you’ve lifted that proverbial trophy? Not many of us dreamt of grabbing that banner multiple times; yet that’s exactly what we’re taught to crave. Achieving your goals is not enough; you must expand your goals and push on. At some level, there’s a truth there: One shouldn’t rest on his or her laurels. However, at the same time, we have to take a step back and see and appreciate all we already have.
With Christmas apparently bearing down on us already, we should all step back – from the stores, from the stress of school, from everything – and take a deep breath. Things are hectic, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.