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You’ve barely finished collapsing the giant inflatable pumpkin in your front yard and you’re already dragging a supersized bouncy Santa out of the shed.
By the time the real Santa makes it back home to the North Pole with an empty sleigh, you’ll be hauling out the Valentine hearts.
Are we starting to move too quickly from one holiday to the next? I’m always hearing people comment on how early in the year a big store will start displaying its Christmas wares. Glittery balls, plastic cherubs, flashing stars… it’s all there before the trees in the park have finished turning yellow. Oh, complain and complain… and drive home with twelve tubes of wrapping paper, “just in case it’s all gone by December.”
“Did you pick up some Easter cards while you were at it?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You’re the one Christmas shopping in your summer shorts and flip-flops.”
The big event these days, of course, is Black Friday, which happens about a week from now. In the past couple of decades, the day after Thanksgiving has become the biggest shopping day of the year. Retailers have come to depend on it for their survival. Fuel companies were already smacking their collective lips at how many miles we’d all be slogging in our enormous wagons during the holiday, and now they’re excited about how much we’ll burn sitting in traffic jams outside shopping malls.
Just to give you an idea of the numbers, a recent estimate based on what retailers reported a few years ago, spending on Black Friday amounted to three hundred dollars for every living person in the United States, regardless of age. So if you have a litter of little ‘uns in your house, you’re spending that much for yourself and each one of them, too. Plus your grandparents, who probably aren’t standing in line at 4 a.m. outside a mega-mart for a discount on an electric pressure cooker.
It’s in the billions. If you aren’t spending that much, then someone else is making up for it.
In one day alone, Americans freshly fattened with roast beast can spend the equivalent of a developing country’s GDP on toasters, talking dolls, power tools, revolting sweaters, radio-controlled lawnmowers, and televisions the size of mattresses. When they come home with their loot, they’ll want to find the house enveloped in the Christmas spirit, twinkle lights and all, with another heaping dish of glistening comfort food on the table.
It’s one thing to show up in Bethlehem with a jar of frankincense; quite another to bring a 52” flatscreen with wifi connectivity.
All of this has to start as early as possible, because it requires planning and budgeting, and you’ll be heeding the warnings that the latest gadget might already be sold out by Black Friday. Off you go, then, to pick up everything you need before the neighbors take it all. Up go the twinkles, down comes the folding tree from the attic, puff goes the bouncy Santa and hey presto, you’ve created your Christmas spirit in a flash.
The kids might still be jumping into swimming pools, your aunt might still be sunbathing on the patio, and the turkey carcass still hasn’t been picked over for sandwiches, but by golly you’ve stacked the goodies in the closet and the shimmery reindeer wrap is all in a jumble behind the bedroom door.
Keep it up, I say. Keep spending your money as early in the year as you please. Keep the clerks and cashiers and stockers employed, keep this behemoth of an economy churning, not just because it brings you joy but because it helps everyone else inch a little closer to the American Dream.
And if you miss the last 4 a.m. pressure cooker, there’s always Cyber Monday…