'Tis the "Extended" Season

Say you get to a movie theater in plenty of time for the scheduled viewing, amazed to discover that the flick's half over, the enthralled audience yelling at you to sit down in front. Or maybe you make reservations for dinner, arriving in a punctual manner only to be notified there could be a ten minute wait... or an hour... or two or three or four. Better still, your car's in the shop and you've been forking out exhorbitant moolah for a rental all week. You go to your mechanic expecting to pay the bill, receiving the "Yeah, you might wanna come back some time next month" line... Unacceptable scenarios, right? Encounters just not tolerable in today's informed community. After all, we are civilized. And that means codes of behavior regarding time, dating back centuries, have been honed to a tee so we can all participate in a fully-functioning society. I mean, it's a reasonable expectation, right?

And yet, all of these expectations are cast aside when it comes to Christmas as the season seems to broaden each and every year. You wanna get in the holiday spirt in a timely manner nowadays then you'd better haul out your gift wrapping paper, fill your eggnog cup and don your ugly-ass reindeer sweater around Labor Day (maybe even earlier if you want a good seat). Look, I realize the younger set reading this (they do still read, right?) is wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, singing along to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" in the middle of August while making out your Christmas list is as American as, I don't know... a premature holiday season?

For the record, this wasn't always the case. It used to be that the official "time of year" began every Thanksgiving evening, after the football games were over, with the commercial depicting Santa sledding down the moguls on his Norelco Shaver (I'm much too young to have witnessed it but I hear stuff). Kids waited for this with bated breath like racers at the Indy 500, a "Children, start your engines!" moment, the green flag being waved signalling a mad dash to the finish with the checkered flag dropping early on Christmas morn. And now, by the time Turkey Day hits, we've been bombarded by more holiday commercials than political ads the week before a national election.

So what gives? How did all this happen? Going way back we find the earliest incarnations of the Christmas pageantry came from the ancient Romans who celebrated the festival of Saturnalia, a holiday in honor of the agricultural god, Saturn, a weeklong party that began around December 17th featuring a lot of feasting and gift-giving. Variations of that carried on until much later into the mid-nineteenth century when the industrial revolution was in full swing and people had more money. It was then that English newspapers began running mass advertisements promoting gift-giving. And later on in the 1930s, on our side of the pond, Coca Cola teamed up with their in-house art directors to create a more kid-friendly Santa (the original versions were positively creepy) to promote their soft drink and then the retailers jumped aboard and the commercialization of the holiday was off and running.

Indeed, as usual, greed won out in the end. The ability of the retailer to make the pivot from "We wish you a merry Christmas" to "It's all about the money, honey" was a thing of beauty (ya' know, if you're a fan of the "trickle-down theory" or more than a little dead inside). No doubt they would've added a second season to the year if possible but Valentine's Day, both Mother's and Father's Day coupled with individual birthdays, anniversaries and the all too frequent over-the-top gift to assuage a marriage infidelity managed to fill up the calendar. So retailers, being the cunning lot they are, did the next best thing; they sneakily began elongating the season with the overall intent of not stopping until it takes up the entire year...

I know, I know, suddenly I'm a conspiracy theorist, the "riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" guy. The crazy uncle your parents said to keep clear of during family reunions. Fine, you're entitled to your own opinions but "Riddle me this Batman": Why is it that the Hallmark Network now shows Christmas movies all year long and that more and more Christmas shops all around the country are flourishing as they keep their doors open the entire twelvemonth too? Could it just be an opening gambit? The pawns being sent out early in this winner-take-all chess match with the rooks, knights and bishops in the forms of UPS, FedEx and Amazon ready to deliver whatever it takes to protect their queen, the retailer's bottom line?... Just sayin'.

On a lighter note, Happy Holidays to everyone and thank you for following me in this, my first year's bi-weekly blog and Top Ten List. May you all be safe and enjoy the "extended" season (ya' know, at least until the January VISA bill makes the scene).