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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The glutting of America (or) Remember When "Holiday" Meant "Special Day"?

Photo: Southern Living

I had a dream this morning. I was driving through our little town, and I noticed photography being done around the marble balustrades of the Elkmont Courthouse, which was just uphill and beside my screenprinting shop, which was down a little side street to my left. I went to speak to the elfin blonde photographer, and she turned me around and showed me the amazing job our local department store had done decorating for Christmas.

Given that our Town Hall occupies an quarter of a metal utility building, which also contains our volunteer fire department, and the closest thing we have to a department store is Dollar General, I began to understand that I was dreaming.

What can I say? The store was enormous...must have covered half a city block, built in the gingerbready reddish-brown brick and concrete favored in the early twentieth century. The windows, grimy with accretions of city traffic exhaust, still shone with the tinsel and light within, promising a wonderland of Christmas color to all who entered.

I awoke shortly, after finding myself changing clothes in the hallway of a starship.

I awoke wistful, remembering my childhood, calling to mind those very wonderlands I had experienced as a little boy. Certainly, you could go to Sears, or to the local five-and-dime and find toys year-round, but it was pedestrian fare, bikes, yo-yos, hula hoops, cap guns, dolls; the stuff to see a kid through birthdays and good grades on the report card. But CHRISTMAS! The local small-town Sears store was ablaze with colored lights and shiny streamers, a majestic tree in the window. and beneath the tree, a bounty that (you hoped) presaged the trove to be found under YOUR aluminium tree at home come December the Twenty-Fifth (Correct!). Even the grocery stores were festooned with tinsel AND toys, the playthings courtesy of Deluxe Reading (pronounced "redding"), a company that marketed through food stores. Christmastime (you know, the holiday period that occurred AFTER Thanksgiving) was a time bursting with Things You Did Not See the Other Eleven Months.

In short, a special time. (Lest the history-ignorant crowd who take umbrage at the use of "Xmas" take ALL the umbrage, let me say "Put down your 'Jesus is the Reason for the Season' picket signs. This is not about that aspect of the season. Trust me, a moral is in the offing, and you may feel spiritually superior all the more for it.") Sights to see, foods to eat, smells to enjoy unlike any other holiday. If there be an American melting pot, then it is Christmastide.

But, to again quote Commodore Decker: "Not 'ny more!". Walmart shelves are bursting year-round. Toy stores are filled with the same stuff year-round; all Christmas does is provide a time to roll out the new models. It is "everywhere, everywhere Christmas tonight" every night. I can pull out a DVD and watch "Rudolph" or "It's a Wonderful Life" in August, if I so choose. A con friend wrote on her Facebook:

Not sure how much actual "Black Friday" shopping will happen for me this year. It's not as much of a big shopping day on Friday anymore since store "sale" hours are being pushed back into the Thanksgiving holiday itself, thus making it LIKE EVERY OTHER DAY EVER.

Her sentiment echoes a culture bereft of "special". We have a surfeit of everything, all the time. Toy stores encrusted with Santa's bounty year-round.

Shucks...remember Saturday Morning Cartoons? You waited all week to see "Herculoids" or "Space Ghost", or cool Supermarionation shows like "SUPERCAR" and "Fireball XL5". Now it's Saturday morning all-day every-day. Saturday is no different from Tuesday afternoon. Too much, all the time! 

At this point some Righteously Indignant sandal-wearing chicken-neck will splutter about "redistribution" and "the poor". Not what I'm talking about. Shut up. Go think about maybe considering working the soup kitchen, or donating that scuffed pair of Birkenstocks to Goodwill.

The homogenizing of holidays is execrable, and must end. Stores closing on Thanksgiving and Christmas might also be helpful, but that's another story. Please let the holidays (holy-days, both secular and religious set-apart days) be separate, from ordinary days, and from each other.

Have a Thankful Thanksgiving!


Michael W said...

First off, I have to say it. Aluminum Christmas Trees! Nothing says "psychic connection to the early 1960s" like an aluminum Christmas tree (illuminated, of course, by a slowly-turning color-wheel off to one side).

(For me, the Christmas season officially took off when the Sears Wishbook arrived.)

And yes, I've also decried the "homogenizing" of holidays (turning them into just one more excuse to hit the malls). The "Black Friday" ads have clearly outdistanced the Thanksgiving ads (which, more often than not, spoke of sales rather than the meaning of the holiday). It's extremely sad.

Jay said...

Deluxe Reading! Man! I completely forgot about those great toys. They even had TV commercials. I remember the Battlewagon ones. And yeah the Tiger Joes.

Thanks to the wussification by our media of young boys, I don't think we're going to see ads like that in the future.

@ Michael W - Yeah ... Sears! Western Auto & J C Penny cats were chock full o' goodies too.

As for the homogenization of the holidays: Yeah ... Democracy ... More of everything all the time ... Wether you want it or not ... Here it comes! BOHICA time!