It’s been a while since I wrote. Lots of things have happened. Work on Backlight continues. My personal life unravels. I take the GRE. I start applying to grad school again. I begin marathon training. I read many insightful things by many insightful people (and neglect to share). I ruminate about issues surrounding Election Day (war, abortion, gay marriage, the economy, and others). I vote. Barack Obama is elected president, and I breathe a sigh of relief along with the rest of the world.
I could have written reams about any and all of the above, but I didn’t. Instead, I come to you now with dire and horrifying news: The Christmas marketing season is upon us! And it will prevail. Unless we act soon. Last Saturday (November 1 — that’s November first), I was walking through San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center on the way to my running route. Being the day after Halloween, large poofy spiders and various orange-and-black things were scattered sadly around the shops. So far, so good — the emotionally awkward day-after detritus is a necessary evil that comes along with any holiday. But what did I hear piping through the mall’s music system? Silver Bells, that smooth and comfortable memory of listening to Bing Crosby as a child in the living room lit by a fire and colorful tree lights. Inconceivable. Impossible. Unacceptable. My mind quickly drew up its defenses and stood against the inappropriate Christmas emotions that had been involuntarily triggered by the song. Was I fast enough? Did I preserve holiday feelings for the holiday itself? Or am I now doomed to experience Christmas burnout? I don’t know.
My argument against the Holiday Marketing Season is simple: it’s too damned long. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas (and I’m talking about the secular, egg-nog-trees-and-lights holiday here, not the Christian celebration — I enjoy that for different reasons) has always been my favorite holiday, and in some impossible perfect world, it would be Christmas all year long. But the sad fact of human psychology is that there is a finite amount of enjoyment we can squeeze from any particular holiday, and there is generally an inverse relationship between the quality and quantity of that enjoyment. I understand the anxious greed of retailers that causes them to attempt to turn every last drop of holiday cheer into cash, and I appreciate the economic stimulation for our country that is often a result. We know from the law of diminishing returns, however, that true enjoyment is an art which requires a delicate balance of anticipation, satisfaction, and moderation. The message of marketers that we can live in the “satisfaction” phase of the enjoyment of the Christmas season for almost 2 months is simply false, and serves to counteract the quality of our enjoyment by turning us into holiday-themed consumption zombies.
So, how should things be? My desire is not for the complete elimination of Christmas-themed marketing (though there are often reasons to be depressed by it and to dislike it). In fact, holiday marketing can play an important part of the “anticipation” phase of enjoying Christmas. Towns and stores decorating themselves, seasonal drinks at Starbucks, the abounding of festive colors and the promise of upcoming time off of work spent with family and friends — all of these are fine things (especially peppermint ice cream and egg nog). What I don’t appreciate is the triggering of anticipation for or the actual satisfaction of Christmas enjoyment desires at inappropriate times. What is an appropriate time? After Thanksgiving (Oh yeah, isn’t that a holiday too?). The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the ideal span to contain the entirety of the “Christmas season”. Christmas trees are put up, buildings decorated, the traditional carols left free to float through the air… it’s wonderful! Deserving of the name “festival” rather than “slog”.
I beg you, therefore, to do what I’m going to do: completely ignore any and all holiday marketing until after Thanksgiving (unless, of course, it is about turkeys or tofurkeys or pumpkin pies or “Fall” or cornucopias or Beaujolais Nouveau). Don’t buy egg nog until December. Don’t play Christmas music. Boycott Santa hats. Wait to put lights on your house. Do this, and you will become true connoisseurs of the Christmas season, realizing that maximum enjoyment is found in the ordering of anticipation and the limiting of satisfaction!