Turn Down the Christmas Knob

I put up with it for awhile. Well, as long as I usually do every year, anyway.

Problem is, this year it started before I had picked out my Halloween costume.

In the past five years alone, the Christmas season has grown from an innocent celebration of end-of-the-year cheer to an enormous marketing juggernaut to which humankind itself is powerless to put a stop.

We've just barely entered the month of December, and already I'm being assaulted in the unlikeliest of places with so-called cheer that is little more than a collection of piped-in tunes from a national satellite distributer and some tinsel that's been progressively rotting in a basement for ten months at a time.

Back with Miracle on 24th Street was fresh cinema, shop owners used to decorate their sales floors with the trappings of the Christmas season because they were genuinely filled with the spirit of the season. These days, bows are thrown at random on various big-ticket items because the cheer generated by red and green ribbons emanates an irresistible urge to buy things.

For the colourblind, I suppose, those specific shades of gray spark a similar reaction.

I've always had a limit for how long I'd put up with the plasticness of this time of year, and it doesn't help that I was placed in charge of decorating at work. Nor are matters improved by rehearsing a collection of seasonal standards for an upcoming concert series in Branson. But seriously, I need a little *less* Christmas, right this very minute.

What's truly depressing is that this whole dilemma probly traces back to the economy.

Retail stores operate on the assumption that 4th-quarter sales are the biggest, and budgets are heavily dependent upon this assumption. When the first 3 quarters show a slump in sales, the bean counters go to the marketing department and beg them to do something; anything to get sales up to the projected figure that was arbitrarily obtained the year before.

In Marketing's hands, they know only two things. Christmas resides somewhere late in the 4th quarter. Christmas music makes people buy things.

The advertisements produced for these promotions are completed in early October or so, and then vomited into the public's view a bit earlier than usual, but all in the name of reaching that estimate.

What happened to celebrating holidays without an ulterior motive? What happened to celebrating Christmas as the coming of the Messiah to our home planet? What happened to the casual, amicable exchange of gifts in remembrance of the gifts presented by the wise men to the young saviour?

How'd this tree get mixed up with the rest of it?

And why haven't those who choose not to celebrate Christmas said anything yet? Next year, they'll be asserting that celebrating Christmas is the American thing to do, and that not shopping at the mall during the month of December supports terrorism. They'll run an ad campaign and have the White House press secretary explain how the mall fights terrorism.

If you can't cheer them into buying, guilt's always the next-best alternative.

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