Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas Commercialism

There was a song I remember from my earliest years that celebrated the Christmas season.  I hope you'll indulge me a moment of nostalgia as I repeat the words to it:

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la, la la la la"

Sound familiar?  I remember not really knowing what a bough of holly was, and then once I found out, I didn't know why one might consider decking any halls with it, since "to deck" in those years referred to the act of punching some other guy in the face.

"Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la."

Yes, indeed.  Jolly, I got.  I liked jolly back then.  Still like it a lot today, in fact.

"Don we now our gay apparel, fa la la, la la la, la la la"

Whoa, now, gay meant something really not-cool back in the 70's in Mississippi, but once it was explained to me that gay had an entirely non-sexual-orientation-related meaning, I was okay with that.  I mean, who wouldn't wanna wear happy stuff, right?

"Troll the ancient Yuletide carol, fa la la la la, la la la la."

My childhood mind glossed right over that line, still buzzing as it was on the word "gay," but it's the most interesting of the bunch, really.  Back then we didn't have "Yahoo Answers" to look up things like "What does 'troll' mean in 'troll the ancient Yuletide carol'?" and read the results as people go back and forth over whether or not the letter r belongs in the word.

Woo hoo!  Carol fight!  Carol fight!

*ahem* no, not really.  It actually is supposed to be the word "troll," from way back before that word referred to doing something ugly on the Internet.  According to the online etymology dictionary, the word "troll" began its life as a verb in the Germanic tongue in the 15th Century, when it referred to walking about, wandering. Which is, I have to point out, pretty much what you do when you go caroling, and even more so if some yummy wassail is involved.

Neat stuff, right?

So this morning, getting ready for work as I was, I heard a new, modernized version of the song on TV.  This one had the following catchy lyrics:

"Shop, shop shop shop shop shop shop shop, fa la la la la, la la la la."

Neat, ain't it?


I'm about as grumpy of a curmudgeon as they come.  I remember fondly a time when you wouldn't hear a Christmas carol, see a wreath, or get prodded to spend money you didn't have to get people stuff they didn't need, until after 12:01 am Friday morning of Thanksgiving weekend.  It was improper, it was gauche, to advertise for Christmas too early.

And now?  Everybody's doin' it.

Oh, I don't mind the TV commercials too much, unless/until they slaughter an old favorite carol of mine.  But "Black Friday," as it's been called forever (or at least since the 1960's) is now becoming darkly-gray Thursday as retailers open earlier and earlier in order to capture as much of the Christmas overspending cash manna as they can.

It's a practice that, to me, is just plain wrong.  Thanksgiving should be a day to spend with your family, if you have one, and/or friends, if you have those, eating lots of food and drinking lots of--um, drink--if you can afford it.

No, I'm not being sarcastic with that last bit.  I've been there, done that, bought the extra-cheap thrift store t-shirt.  Made the Thanksgiving meal out of cans that said "green beans" and "ham with water added" right beside a simple bar code.  Not for long, but I was certainly there in that economic demographic.  Back then, if my employer had offered me extra pay to work on Thanksgiving, I'd've taken them up on it in a New York minute, because hey, I needed the money.

So no, I have nothing at all against those who choose to work on Thanksgiving.  More power to 'em, man.

Further, I'm honestly not sure I have anything against the employers who choose to open their doors on Thanksgiving.  After all, if the demand wasn't there, they wouldn't be doing it.  Pleasing the customer is, after all, what drives the cogs of capitalism, right?  And as far as I'm concerned, as long as it's not dumping poison into my rivers or fouling my spinach with the latest strain of deadly microbe or making it so I can't afford to take my kid to the doc, I'm all for capitalism.  Yes, some of them Capitalists have fewer people on staff who need the extra money than they require on-site in order to maintain operations, and so they have to force workers to come in when they wouldn't have otherwise.  I hate that, but being an employer and manager myself I see the point.

So all that said, who should we really be cranky with regarding the invasion of our Thanksgiving space of cheerfulness and, um, thankfulness?

I think, the customer.  Frankly, until we get to the point where people aren't willing to spend Thanksgiving away from family standing in long lines in order to enjoy the chance to potentially win the purchase of an iWhatzit for a few bucks off the regular price, we'll continue seeing Darkened Weekdays creeping earlier and earlier.  Is that a problem?  For the employees who need the money and are happy for a chance to work for it, no, it's kind of a good thing.  For the ones who don't and aren't, it's not.

And for me--I guess I can stand to see a few more commercials that butcher my favorite Christmas tunes.  But don't expect to see me at a store on the fourth Thursday of November. 


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