Fluffing garland at the top of a pajama display in my store, I excitedly hummed the tune of the Time Warp to myself. Doing a little dance as I climbed down the ladder, ready to see the late-night, double-feature, picture-show after my shift, I heard a squeal come from the customer at the register.
“I thought your legs were a Halloween decoration until you started moving!”
Instead of wearing merchandise from my store that night, I was festive in skeleton tights with a red mini-skirt and a graphic tee with juicy, red lips. It was, after all, the night before Halloween, and I was going to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show after closing the store.
The amused customer explained to me that from where she was standing, she could only see my legs through the doorway to the back half of the store, and not my upper body or the ladder.
Her laughter faded instantly when she learned that the reason I was up there on the ladder was not to put my skeleton legs on display for Halloween, but to hang holiday decorations.
“Don’t even remind me,” she groaned, recognizing that while it wasn’t even Halloween yet, the mall was already beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
I have grown accustomed to these reactions and attitudes toward the holiday season throughout my five years of working in retail, and they become more common with every passing year. As if the consumer takeover of Thanksgiving through Black Friday wasn’t enough of a reason for customers to be obsessed with bargain-hunting and gift buying, they are now being reminded of the pressures of presents as early as Halloween, making these disheartening comments multiply.
Every year, my co-workers and I excitedly deck the halls on Halloween, only to strip them on Christmas Eve, before I’ve even eaten my grandfather’s fettuccine, or hurried my little brother to bed for Santa’s arrival. In retail, our sales holiday comes and goes before our real holiday gets a chance to begin.
It is the irrational and disproportional prominence of the sales’ holiday over the real holiday that makes shoppers’ attitudes toward the holidays so negative. It is the reason I hear so many of them nervously and angrily say “I’m not ready for Christmas,” or worse, “I hate Christmas.” It is the idea that to be “ready for Christmas,” one must have a great deal of cash set aside for excessive amounts of presents. It is the absurd notion that the amount of gifts you buy and receive is more important than the fettuccine you eat and the people you share it with.
Perhaps the reason I continue to decorate for the holidays in Halloween clothes year after year is because the meaning of the holidays has shifted from the home to the shopping mall. Commercialization of the holidays has led us to believe that preparing for Christmas means hunting out deals as early as Nov. 1, so that you can make the most of your money and maximize the amount of gifts under the tree.
Instead of making the most of your money with unnecessary gifts this holiday season, try making the most of your time by spending it with the people that have made your holiday traditions and memories so meaningful in the first place.
And if you’re going to buy the ridiculous battery-operated beanie with a string of illuminating Christmas lights, buy it for your bald father so that his head stays warm while the two of you make your house the brightest on the block every year. Make your purchase a thoughtful addition to your tradition, and don’t be embarrassed when he wears it in public when you inevitably need to run to the hardware store for a replacement fuse.