View from the Cheap Seats is kind of an extension of the newsroom. Whenever our three regular reporters, Calvin Daniels, Thom Barker and Kelly Friesen are in the building together, it is frequently a site of heated debate. This week: Is the Christmas season too long?
Loss of magic
The question we posed to each other this week seemed simple enough, is the Christmas season being dragged out too long these days?
That is a pretty simple answer; yes, and you could print that yes in all capital letters for emphasis. But a one word answer is perhaps the worst thing in the world for a newspaper journalist with space to fill.
So a bit closer look is required. The problem these days is how stores have extended one holiday period until it simply overlaps with another.
Halloween decorations and treats end up on the shelves in August and are there until Oct. 31, when they overlap with the first tinsel of Christmas.
Christmas paraphernalia stay on store shelves until the end of Boxing Day blow-outs, albeit at reduced prices, and then make way for everything imaginable festooned with Valentine’s Day hearts. It all becomes a department store haze where holidays are less individual events and more a never-ending sales pitch with the words changed just a bit.
Television jumps on the bandwagon with seasonal specials weeks before the actual holiday. And we seem glad to buy in too, with office Christmas parties weeks ahead, or held until January to avoid the busy world.
And what has it all gotten us? A loss of the magic of the season I say.
It was a rare treat to have a Mandarin orange Christmas Day when I was a youngster. Today we are tired of such a treat with the tasty fruit seemingly on store shelves in time to be Halloween treats.
Classics such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were something to watch in the glow of a real tree in the nights nearing Santa’s arrival, not on the first chilly day of November.
The seasons blur, the thrill watered down by the sheer wait of days. The season simply too-long by far.
Depends on you
For me, the question of whether the Christmas season is too long depends on what it means to you and how you look at it. Before the development of western consumer culture, the season was basically from December 25 to January 6, hence the 12 days of Christmas or Christmastide.
For most mainstream Christian churches the Advent season, which marks the beginning of the liturgical year on the fourth Sunday prior to December 25, is inextricably tied to Christmas itself as it is the time of commemoration of the first coming of Christ and preparation for His return.
In North America, this is the period that roughly corresponds with the most intense buildup to the main event, when people shop, bake, hold holiday parties and generally get into the festive spirit with seasonal music, decorations and salutations.
In the U.S., the greater holiday season also includes Thanksgiving, which in many ways is even bigger than Christmas, and extends the celebratory period at least to the middle of November.
Signs of Christmas start popping up pretty much the minute Halloween is over. I think this is logistical for many people. They are taking down the Halloween decorations, might as well kill two birds with one stone and put up the Christmas decorations at the same time.
For retailers, it’s even longer than that. When I was in the jewellery business, the season started around the end of September, beginning of October, which meant for the advertising and marketing departments it started even before then.
We did half our year’s business in those three months and half of that half in December alone.
There are so many factors at play in determining the actual length of the season, but ultimately, I think, it’s only as long as you want it to be. I hear a lot of people complain about it being too long, but personally, I’d have to judge that on whether it has any detrimental impact on my life.
It does not, aside from maybe making the lineups a little longer at the grocery store for a couple of weeks.
A fifth of the year
I was asked by my fine colleagues at Yorkton This Week whether or not the Christmas season is too long. In short, the answer is yes! For the love of God yes!
The Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year. As soon as October is over and Halloween is in the books the Christmas music begins to play. And it plays everywhere. The music, which has never and will never be appealing to the ears, is played in stores, on the radio and in elevators. It’s pretty much impossible to escape it!
And if you do manage to escape the music by, say, turning on the television, you’ll instantly be bombarded by Christmas movies starring actors you have never heard of before and will never hear of again (until next Christmas of course when those same movies attack your eyeballs).
But the worst part of it all has to be the way the stores handle Christmas. Many times Halloween isn’t even finished before Christmas stuff is stacked in the shelves and pushed down our throats.
And as we are in Saskatchewan many people tend to celebrate Ukrainian Christmas, which takes place on January 7 each year. All that does is extend the Christmas season. Although I do have to say the Ukrainian people are smart. After all, they buy their presents for their Christmas on Boxing Day, thereby taking advantage of the sales.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love Christmas. I thoroughly enjoy the family gatherings, the exchange of presents and the conversations with loved ones. It’s just that all of that could be done within a day or two. Why do we need to waste a fifth of the year on Christmas?