The holiday season officially began last Friday. Or, at least, that's when my friend Sheila proudly announced on Facebook that she'd caved into Christmas.
"I held out as long as possible," her status update read. "Christmas music starts today. Apologies to those who sit near me, but I will hit that high note in 'O, Holy Night' before the season ends."
The Christmas loving sheilas have taken over. And big corporations, from retailers to radio stations, seem intent on catering to their every demand.
Evidence of the Christmas calendar creep is ubiquitous. Walmart made headlines this week with their controversial decision to begin Black Friday sales at 8PM on Thanksgiving Day. Not to be outdone, dozens of other major corporate retailers have followed suit. Sears and Kmart, just like the early birds at Walmart, will open at 8PM. Target looks respectable by waiting until 9PM. Meanwhile, the late-bloomers at Macy's, Kohl's and Best Buy won't be open until midnight.
Corporations haven't figured out a way for store shelves to stock themselves yet, which means thousands of workers won't be able to get into shouting matches with their in-laws this Thanksgiving Day. The Huffington Post reports, "More than 30,000 people have signed an online petition on MoveOn.org asking Walmart not to make its employees work on Thanksgiving." Employees have launched other online petitions, which have garnered as many as 350,000 signatures.
Retailers aren't the only ones changing the holiday calendar. In Southern California, KOST/103.5 FM, an adult contemporary station known for playing the holiday standards, switched to their all-holiday music format at 9PM on November 15. If that seems early, realize that's a full two days later than in 2011. And last year, KOST wasn't even the first radio station to switch to "constant caroling." The Los Angeles Times reports, "KTWV-FM (94.7) made the same switch two days earlier, and began calling itself "L.A.'s new Christmas station."
Even the evangelical conservatives' hoopla over the "War on Christmas" has started earlier this year. This Monday, three days before Thanksgiving, a federal judge settled a dispute between a church group and atheists over the right to display a nativity scene in a Santa Monica public park.
What happened? There used to be a sort of holiday space-time continuum, in that there was space on the calendar between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday season couldn't officially begin until after the turkey had been carved. This year, it hasn't even thawed out.
The obvious answer is money. The holiday rush is driven by sales numbers. Retailers are opening earlier because they want to beat the competition. Last year, KOST's all-holiday format helped the station claim the top ratings spot for December with an 8.5% share of the Los Angeles-Orange County market.
But, money isn't the only factor. New technology has sped up our lives. We experienced it the past two years with the never-ending election season. The day after the election, the political echo chamber was already blathering on about the 2016 presidential race.
Ultimately, we're to blame. According to a poll taken by pay-day lender Think Finance, "Some 45 percent of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high." Despite all the stress, we continue to go through the holiday madness because everyone else does.
We don't need online petitions to stop Walmart. We just need to stop participating in it. All of it. Don't shop on the new Black Thursday. Silence the Christmas carols. Keep the decorations in the attic. And join me in saying "Bah Humbug!" to Christmas-- at least until after we've all had some turkey.