The leaves on the trees are turning a striking shade of red. People all over the country are buying plane tickets to visit family and planning menus for Thanksgiving Dinner. Autumn is in full swing; you can almost smell the Thanksgiving turkey and in the malls plays…Christmas music.
At this point, the debate over whether November is too early to begin planning for Christmas is almost a joke. Every year, stores break out the red and green as soon as Halloween ends, to some people’s joy and others’ chagrin. However, even the staunchest supporters of confining Christmas to December have come to accept holiday themes in November as inevitable.
Sadly, it is inescapable as long as people are apathetic. I understand this may not seem like a big deal, but there is an insidious problem with stores pushing Christmas as early as they can.
Ultimately, the biggest loser when Santa makes his November debut is Christmas itself. Not to sound cheesy, but Christmas, or any winter holiday, is not about shopping or spending more than you can afford on gifts. My family celebrates Christmas, and I love the season. I love selecting a tree. I love baking Christmas cookies with my family. I love watching the number of presents swell in the living room.
Honestly, though, if you asked me what gifts I received last year, I’d be hard-pressed to remember. If you asked me about five years ago or 10 years ago, forget it. I couldn’t tell you. What makes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and all the others special is the break from the daily grind and the ability to make memories with the friends and family we care so much about. We remember the good times and forget the specific items we received.
Of course, if the holidays are about making memories, isn’t it better to celebrate early and show your loved ones you appreciate them? I agree that there is value if the coming of Christmas prompts us to be kinder, more patient and more aware of how much we owe family and friends. However, let’s not forget that if corporate America is sparking this rush of nostalgia, it is for their own bottom-line.
I don’t resent business leaders trying to boost sales during peak season, when Americans spend a staggering amount of money. However, as consumers, it is our job to be aware that corporate messages will have a definite slant. The holidays are a lot of fun, and that can make people let their guard down. Biases that might otherwise be filtered out go unnoticed in the rush of warm feelings when an advertiser stresses that Christmas is coming. The only ones who win if we are lured into spending absurd amounts of money on gifts are corporate leaders and we, as a society, can lose so much if Christmas becomes a spectacle and not a time when families and friends come closer together.
As the holidays quickly approach, I encourage people to get into the Christmas spirit of generosity and goodwill but let’s remember that businesses have an entirely profit-driven agenda before we enthusiastically welcome the appearance of Christmas in November but risk losing the substance.
Business communication graduate student
Printed in the 11/16/16 issue.