The radio bombarded me with Christmas music while I was driving my daughter to school today. It assaulted me from not one but two different channels.
Didn’t we at least get to muddle through Thanksgiving before this took place? First it was professional sports seasons that began extending too far, overlapping one another, and now Thanksgiving gets shunted aside for the big Christmas shopping bonanza.
Thanksgiving must be saved! It has long been a favorite holiday of mine. All you basically have to do is show up and eat. If you’re not too hung over from the night before, after communing with returning alums from your high school, you can suck in some crisp fall air attending a high school game.
I spent years watching Lunenburg get waxed by North Middlesex with my brother-in-law and sister while my mother stayed home cooking the turkey, listening to the Fitchburg/Leominster game while hitting the Canadian Club and keeping up a running monologue directed at the dog about those heathens from Leominster. We could tell if Fitchburg was losing when we came home by whether or not the dog was scratching furiously at the door to escape the diatribe.
Now I can go root for North Middlesex, watching kids I coached in Pop Warner. With any luck, I might be able to root for a son of mine in such a game in a year or two.
Thanksgiving remains largely an obligation-free holiday. No gifts, no elaborate preparations save for picking up a turkey, some pies, and two vegetables to toss into the trash can instead of one. The biggest challenge happens to be timing the cooking of the bird to coincide with the interlude between the Cowboys and Lions football games on TV. Thanksgiving also falls on the same day every year, meaning there’s no variation of routine. If you’re lucky enough, you get to take the Friday after Thanksgiving off, and sneak in a very long weekend to recharge the batteries.
Well, you get to take the long weekend off provided you do not think it’s a great idea to wander to the mall on the Friday after Thanksgiving, to get into the Conspicuous Consumption Conga Line that snakes its way through the malls right up until Christmas Eve. Women generally lead that procession, while men typically hop into the line around Dec. 23.
The retail economic engine has turned into a monster. It used to be a handful of catalogues showed up from the likes of Spencer Gifts and L.L. Bean. Now every knucklehead with a Web site bludgeons your mailbox with overpriced junk. (Spencer Gifts flogged junk, to be sure, but it was cheap junk.) I mean, come on, who buys anything from Hammacher Schlemmer? Who needs a $350 pre-lit Christmas tree or a $6,000 three-wheeled, two-person scooter? You can buy the stuff from a normal retailer and then get the savings in single dollar bills and burn them in your wood stove to heat your house for a month.
We must stand and fight. If we allow Christmas planning to overtake Thanksgiving, what is to stop the beast from chewing its way through the calendar, obliterating Columbus Day before locking up the brakes at Labor Day weekend?
Call me a heartless Republican, but I do not support the Mall Santa Full Employment Act. Besides, if we do that, who is going to offer to clean our car windows at stop lights or pick up returnable cans on the side of the road for staggering-around money?
Where are the Native Americans in all of this? Couldn’t they market casino packages replete with traditional Thanksgiving re-enactments? Put the croupiers in headdresses, arm the bouncers with tomahawks and war paint, and dress the waitresses in scanty buckskin numbers. Turn the tables on us. Pipe in the subliminal, one-word message “karma” while leaving us penniless and dispirited. I am sure they could work up joint marketing deals with the financial services houses to insure we hit the credit cards hard during the Christmas season.
For the love of God, let us save the serenity of Thanksgiving. It’s the calm before the storm.
Mr. Woollacott is president and founder of Renaissance Group International Inc., a market research and consulting firm focusing on the information technology market. Contact him directly at email@example.com.