By Cam Mather

Back when I lived in suburbia I drank coffee from a chain of Canadian donut stores called “Tim Horton’s,” named after the hockey player who started them. They’re in the U.S. now but they’re called “Tim Horton’s Café and Bake Shop.” Well “La de da!” Even all those years ago (15 or so) I always took my own re-usable cup, and a reusable container for my donuts. I ate a fair number of donuts back in those days because I cycled everywhere. At least that was my excuse. Each summer Tim’s had a contest called “Roll Up The Rim To Win” in which you rolled back the paper lip of your disposable coffee cup to see if you had won a prize. I, of course, was on the phone daily to the public relations and marketing departments of Tim Horton’s trying to explain to them how their contest punished people for doing the correct thing for the environment, but they never got it. If I complained to the donut shop employees they would offer me an empty paper cup to play the game, and they didn’t seem to realize that it kind of defeated the purpose of bringing a reusable mug in the first place!

When they first began this contest it ran during the summer months. I think the idea behind it was to encourage coffee sales that would otherwise drop off in the summer, because people don’t have the same desire for hot beverages during warm weather. But then they kept kind of creeping back the timing of the contest, first starting it in June, then May, and so on until it probably starts in January now, when it’s cold, and PEOPLE DRINK COFFEE ANYWAY! Sometimes capitalism inspires bizarre behavior.

And now we have the unstoppable “Christmas Creep” which is really getting out of hand. But we have to have it, you know. For retailers Christmas is the make or break time, they HAVE to increase sales, they MUST have a successful holiday season or really, the entire economy comes off the rails. And with 70% of the U.S. now centered on buying “stuff,” I suppose it would be hard to argue with this logic. Except on behalf of the planet, that is.

The reality is though that it’s just getting silly. It seems like American retailers always waited until Thanksgiving before letting loose on the whole Christmas mayhem. But then retailers started advertising Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving. This crept up and up and now the Christmas stuff is up in stores before the Halloween stuff is down.

Black Friday used to start, that’s right, on the Friday after Thanksgiving. But then retailers had to compete so they started opening their doors earlier and earlier … 5 am … 3am … midnight! So let me get this straight. You want your employees to have a super traditional family dinner and then head into work at 9 pm to get the store ready so they can work all night? Really? Does that sound fair to you? Does it sound logical?

And of course this year we crossed the rubicon into “Grey Thursday” and some retailers opened ON Thanksgiving, which means they’ll all to do it next year which means that all Americans will miss out on the nice family day because they’ll have to shop on Thanksgiving. Really, it’s just getting stupid. Why not skip Thanksgiving all together and move Black Friday to Wednesday so everyone can have Thursday off, LIKE WE USED TO?

When our daughters were young children we had a rule in the house that there was no Christmas stuff until December 1st. No decorations. No special Christmas mugs. And no Christmas music! This rule was sternly enforced. If someone was caught humming a Christmas ditty I quickly shut him or her down. And then I’d start singing another infectious song to try and distract them.

Because you know what? You have great songs with lyrics like “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” which I wholeheartedly agree with. But if you start celebrating it in October, it lasts two months, or almost 20% of the year and if it lasts 20% then it’s really NOT the most wonderful time of the year, it’s just a prolonged overhyped unspecial deadzone of vile commercial hypermadness.

We had our Santa Claus Parade in Tamworth this past weekend. Other communities had theirs a month ago. Really, you want your kids hyped about Santa coming for 8 weeks? What are you thinking? I walked along with a local group that I am a member of called the GrassRoots Growers. I dressed up as a farmer (not much of a stretch for me) and I carried a hoe. I wanted to carry a pitchfork but decided that it may not be considered politically correct to carry a pitchfork in public. I believe that it’s important in small towns to have many citizens in possession of pitchforks. They are integral to threatening the mayor or authorities when … you suspect aliens have landed and are living amongst you, or it’s rumored that zombies are marching towards town and you think the authorities are just denying it until it’s too late. Pitchforks and flaming torches, they just go hand in hand. Perhaps not appropriate for a Santa Claus Parade, though.

Santa-Claus-parade-2012

I toyed with carrying a placard with a slogan Michelle suggested, “If you ate today, Kiss a Farmer,” but again, I didn’t want to do anything that might be perceived as political. Parade organizers said we weren’t supposed to throw candy from floats this year. Next year I’m recommending that kids come wearing protective eye gear and we start the tradition again.

When I got home I put up our oh-so-awesome LED Lights, EVERYWHERE! It’s like a used car lot here now! I got our Christmas mug collection out and put our regular mugs away. Now I look forward to every cup of tea and my one coffee in the morning, because they are in totally awesomely special red and green mugs! Now I can start playing Handel’s Messiah… but only in the morning, and only every 3rd or 4th day. Luckily I work alone so I can sing to my heart’s content with no harassment from the cheap seats.

Next weekend I’ll bring in our artificial tree, which we bought about 25 years ago, on sale after Christmas, and which is still in remarkably great shape. We’ll decorate it (or to be honest, Michelle will decorate it). Yes, we have 150 acres and many coniferous trees that might do the trick, but they haven’t been pruned and frankly I get tired of the sap and needles that fall off. And as we’ve more added bookshelves to the living room the space available for the tree is reduced every year. I’ll bring in lots of pine branches that make the house smell great.

Retailers be damned. I will spend no more on Christmas this year than last, regardless of how early you start advertising. In fact, our awesome daughters don’t mind the great scores Michelle often makes at secondhand stores, so retailers don’t really see much business from us at all. We spend less and less every year.

And it will be a short season, and it will be the most wonderful time of the year. Just as long as we can get past that whole December 21st Winter Solstice End of the World thing. If we get past that, it’ll be awesome.