Guest Author: Susanne Skinner
Last weekend I was in the beautiful Casco Bay area of Maine and there is no finer place. The smell of fall was in the air. It is cold and crisp and fresh. It heralds the coming of chilly nights and the last of the summer garden. The leaves had begun to turn and I knew we’d have a beautiful foliage season. I was thinking of pumpkins and corn stalks, and apple picking. I was wondering where my flannel shirts were. What I was not doing was thinking of Christmas.
When I am in Maine no trip is complete until I stop at Reny’s. This is iconic Maine at its best. It’s Down Home, with a moose or two on the front doors and lots of wonderful Maine products inside. I go there to stock up on favorites like Reyes Mustard and Wild Maine Blueberry Jam. They are known for eclectic and specialty merchandise, low prices and things that speak to life in Maine.
I walked in and was stopped in my tracks by the display of Christmas merchandise in the front of the store. Lots of it – side to side and up and down. Off to the left was a small nod to Halloween which was not so artfully combined with Thanksgiving, probably because they share the same colors. To the right were the 2014 calendars. It looked like they were pushing what was left of 2013 out the back door.
I know what you’re thinking – no news here. Once Labor Day is over, it’s open season on who can get the stuff out first. Will it be supermarkets with candy and paper goods, drug stores with lights and wrapping paper or the discount stores with trees and lawn decorations? But wait – this is Reny’s! When did they go to the Dark Side? Who turned them? Was it the lure of early holiday shoppers and profit? Did they decide to become more main stream? I think it was the need to get on the HallowThanksMas band wagon.
Retailers have taken the last three holidays of the year and created a mash up. Two of them have already launched their television ads. The distinctive and special seasons that ramp up after the back to school rush are gone. I remember the anticipation of seeing Christmas decorations after Thanksgiving. Now the final three months of the year are one giant amalgamation of advertising and cheesy merchandise. The meaning of these holidays has been blurred by items sold so far in advance of the actual holiday that nothing reflects the season we are in.
Retailers claim the consumers have asked for this early display of holiday purchasing. Market research states that 42% of the people want to get a jump on holiday bargains. Really?? I didn’t ask for it – did you? As my mom often said; who is “they?” She also said “you’re not everybody else” and those words crossed my mind as I stood in Reny’s and realized they had become just like everybody else. The magic was gone.
I am offended by this early assault on my seasonal senses and I know many of you are as well. I am old school and I want to go back to the time when well-placed decorations (not merchandise) represented the coming holidays. I want that sense of anticipation back as I eat the last of the Halloween candy and begin my Thanksgiving dinner planning. I want it to be about the meaning of the holidays instead of extreme marketing and big profit.
Are any of us asking “where’s the Christmas stuff” when we’re shopping for back to school supplies? I see the very same items on the shelves after Christmas. I don’t believe there’s a shortage and most people don’t want to buy Christmas lights on Labor Day. If you’re like me, you can decorate a small country with items you already have stored in your attic.
I’m a thrifty shopper. My favorite four letter word is sale (followed closely by free). I will be the first one to high five myself when I score a good deal. The thing is, my holiday bargains happen after the holidays when stores are making way for the Valentine Candy. I do not shop early, I shop after. I don’t want to see this stuff in stores until my leftover Thanksgiving turkey has been made into a casserole and the bones are in the stock pot. When the holiday is over have one good sale and then shut it down.
This year I am going to try something different. In addition to my annual refusal to enter the malls or be seen in Christmas aisles (my husband buys the red and green peanut M&M’s) I am trying something new. I don’t need to leave the house, engage in parking space wars, or point, click and pay. No retailer will earn a single cent from this gift, it requires no wrapping, and can be given all year. It has no monetary value but offers a huge return to the giver. As part of your holiday celebration, Oren Arnold suggests this wonderful alternative:
- To your enemy, forgiveness.
- To your opponent, tolerance.
- To your friend, your heart.
- To a customer, service.
- To all, charity.
- To every child, a good example.
- To yourself, respect.
“God Bless us everyone”