Monday, November 21, 2011

Think About the Over-Commercialization of Christmas

About 12 years ago I was working at a job where 25 or 30 of us sat in a large room cataloging library books. Several of my co-workers repeatedly requested to have music play in the background, but this request was refused over and over again.

Except at Christmastime.

Much to my dismay, at some point around Thanksgiving, Christmas music started pouring out of the stereo in the corner. Some of you who know me personally are aware that I don't like Christmas music. At least not in every setting or all of the time. Listening to the radio makes it seem as though only a few songs exist and that most pop artists can only sing those tunes. So, in an eight-hour shift, one might hear the same song--albeit different versions--at least a dozen times. And, worse, they're all peppy little numbers with happy, unimaginative lyrics. The exceptions are the actual religious Christmas carols, which have meaning and purpose and, therefore, seem out of place in a retail or other basically secular environment. And, perhaps, these should be reserved for a private (home) or religious (church) setting? If you're going to throw Christmas music at me in a public setting, at least give me something creative like, say, the Kinks' "Father Christmas."

So, when the Christmas music started at the aforementioned workplace, I told my "supervisor" [she was not my actual boss, but she spot-checked my work] that I was offended by it. She replied, "No, you're not; you just want to cause trouble." Well, she was mostly right (she knew me well). But I asked her, "What if I were Jewish?" She just rolled her eyes.

The fact remains, though: I do not think Christmas music should be broadcast ruthlessly on the radio. And certainly not in November. What is this obsession with Christmas music? With Christmas, in general?

And, lest I seem bitter and Scrooge-like, I must add that Christmas is actually my favorite holiday, but I like it for its true meaning. Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward all. Sound familiar? The commercialization of the holiday has gotten completely out of control. The true holiday spirit comes from giving something of yourself to others, and not necessarily in the form of a material object. It should come from the heart; it should have meaning.

And the true holiday spirit lasts all year.

Which is why one Christmas song I don't mind hearing all year round (as long as it's not played ten times a day on one tired radio station) is John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)." Because, really, wouldn't it be a merry Christmas for everyone if there wasn't fear in this world, if there wasn't fighting, if war really was over?

Isn't that what's meant by "Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward all"?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Think About Marketing

Each year, Christmas comes too early.

It's supposed to be a joyful holiday, a celebration of Jesus's birth; but, instead, marketers create a depressing collage of commercialism. And like pawns in a board game, people fall for it, going to malls and superstores and spending money they don't have for things they don't need (and, often, don't even want). I avoid superstores, and I've been to a mall about twice in the last two years. I avoid shopping at all (except for groceries and other necessities), although I will support local/independent stores--if I have a need to buy anything, that is.

The day after Thanksgiving is the day I do the opposite of what many people do. Instead of buying anything, I give stuff away. I'm currently in the process of sorting through my clothes, books, and other items. While I clean out my closets and shelves a few times each year, November is when I do my major "Spring cleaning" (I know...wrong time of year). Donating to a good cause (I usually take my items to the American Cancer Society's local Discovery [resale] shop) feels to be more in the "spirit" of the season than buying things. It's my mini-protest against the commercialism of Christmas.

The marketing department at the company I work for sends out an e-newsletter every two weeks with what they deem note-worthy or interesting information. A couple of weeks ago one of these items was about retail giant Nordstrom and how it "will not be decorating its stores for this holiday season until the very end of November..." in order "to give its customers a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families first." The newsletter blurb continues: "Whether this is truly the spirit of Thanksgiving in action or simply a genius marketing tactic is up for you to decide." (Note: I have not confirmed that this information is actually true. If I knew where a Nordstrom was, I might be curious enough to actually visit; but I'd rather hear from my readers. That way I don't have to go near a mall or shopping center--I break out in hives if I get too close....)

The cynic in me wonders why Nordstrom customers can't celebrate Thanksgiving with their families anyway, regardless of how the store is decorated. How would a store's decor affect that?

Is it a marketing ploy? Is it a tactic to get customers in the store to see if it's decorated or not? If so, I don't want to fall for it.

Even without shopping (at Nordstrom or anywhere else), I'm bombarded with Christmas everywhere I turn. Instead of putting me in a joyous spirit, it depresses me. I don't want to hear Christmas music yet. I don't want to see Christmas trees or festive decor. I'll be sick of it by the time Christmas actually arrives.

Call me Scrooge, but it's marketers who have ruined this holiday for me.

Bah-hum-bug. Pass the eggnog.