Christmas “Creep”

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.

9 Responses to “Christmas “Creep””

  • Gerrit Botha:

    Agreed on the Christmas Creep. Cam, I think I saw somewhere that this week coffee is officially good for us again. So go ahead, enjoy that second cuppa.

  • Cat:

    It`s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, every where I go… it started December 26th last year. I suspect that that day has better revenue than the day after Thanksgiving since shopping starts before Halloween anyway. After Christmas use to just be for returns and exchanges…now you go buy for yourself what you really wanted but you were to greedy to admit to anyone. Maybe I am speaking for mysèlf but I doubt it. I have begun regifting since I am downsizing instead of super sizing my home. Giving stuff to my kids they would like to have when I`m gone, now.

  • Lorna:

    We also wait until after Dec. 1 for any Christmas-y things-decorations, music, food etc. I feel like the Grinch when I have to go shopping this time of year-I hate, hate, hate all the stuff, stuff, stuff. Our children love shopping at the thrift stores! and we have decided to give our children gifts of ‘experiences’ from now on. This year, the boys will be getting some much needed swimming lessons. Not that they won’t get any toys at all–Santa brings one or two gifts, and grandparents give gifts as well. We’ll be going through our gently used toys to donate; although, most charities demand new items now-a-days? We are making edible/consumable gifts for family and friends. And every year I look forward to my once-a-year cup of home-made egg nog (in a festive Christmas mug).
    Thank you, Cam, for a spot-on look at what is happening to our hyper-consumerist societies.

  • carol Kiley:

    I enjoyed the post and can identify with the sentiments. We are snow birds spending the winter in Florida & I was bound & determined I wouldn’t be decorating till at least December first. However almost every single other house in our community was fully decorated the minute Thanksgiving was over. I started to feel guilty & Grinch like so broke down and joined in. However I have made it a point to spend as little as possible on decorations this year and have had great fun shopping the yard sales and thrift stores finding some great treasures. It amazes me what some people cast aside in the quest for bigger and better stuff. I managed to avoid black Friday altogether and didn’t miss it a bit.
    Enjoying not being a part of the consumers rat race

  • Gave up Christmas years ago–and many years before that gave up the card-sending routine and severely minimized the gift-giving nonsense.

    Deeda, we were down in the States for ten days in October and our people couldn’t WAIT to get back to Canada to get a decent cup of (you guessed it, Tim Horton’s) coffee! Must just be what you get used to… My fav thing at TH’s is the maple pecan danish, mmmmm.

  • I work at a LOCAL garden center and they were putting up Christmas crap in August! So were the big box home improvement stores. I agree, it’s out of control, but as long as there are dolts that patronize and support this madness, it will continue. Pretty soon it will be like presidential elections; Christmas advertising the previous year for next year’s rush, negative ads dissing the competition and lies, lies, lies about how good their stuff is compared to their competitor’s stuff. I think it helps if you smash your television(s), Ipads and stop patronizing any retailer that starts the campaign before T-day. That would eliminate a lot of retailers on your list.

  • I’m in total agreement. I normally have my outside lights up before Thanksgiving but don’t turn them on until after desert on Thanksgiving. This year Thanksgiving was early in the month so the Christmas decor is going up today. I didn’t want Christmas taking away from our Thanksgiving because we really like Thanksgiving. I also refuse to participate in any shopping day of color. Black, gray or otherwise. We are only gifting consumables (foods) and things that are useful. And not over the top on any of those either. I avoid the mall like the plague and do most of our shopping online but only after Thanksgiving. It’s a pity that people think of Christmas only as a time to consume and spend. We use those 25 days before to do fun family Christmas functions. Like plays or making things or going to the Figgy Caroling contest in Seattle this friday.Most Americans have been brainwashed.

  • DeedaInSeattle:

    I agree, it’s nauseating…my teenage daughter works in a chain drugstore, Walgreeen’s, and they put up the Halloween stuff up in early September, and after Halloween? That’s right–Christmas stuff! They had 24/hr Christmas music since the middle of November! It’s getting scary down here in the States…somehow the Govt thinks that consumerism is the only way to get the economy going again, and while that might make the 1% happy, the other 99% of us keep on struggling, skimping, and saving. It’s absolutely nuts.

    BTW, my family went to Tim Horton’s in Richmond BC last Summer, and while the donuts were delish (we still think it’s odd there’s no ‘Maple Bar’ up there) we thought the coffee and hot chocolate was awful. Not sure if they were having a bad day or what. We were expecting at least as good as $tarbucks(which we think tastes burnt) coming from Seattle, but odd. We’ll have to give it another try next time!

  • Rick:

    Hello Cam,

    Loved the rant about Christmas creep, especially when it comes to stores opening on Thanksgiving. It’s very unfortunate that consumers show up on Thanksgiving to start buying more stuff and junk they don’t really need. This behavior will only cause retailers in future years to open earlier on Thanksgiving.

    I also remember a time when getting ready for Christmas didn’t start until after Thanksgiving, and it’s a tradition we still maintain in my home.

    Keep up the good fight!

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About Cam
Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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