Way too early for Christmas

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Shopping. On a Saturday. On Dundas Street West, edging through Chinatown to get to TenRen’s Tea shop to see if it carried a special tea thingy: a tall double-walled glass tumbler with a self-contained tea strainer to hold loose tea. It’s a handy and well-designed accoutrement for those tea-sipping or slurping types who do not like tea bags in ugly mugs.

Saturday is not a good day to shop. Sadly, the gods of parking were against me and offered up a parking spot right on the street, a two-minute walk from the tea shop.

TenRen’s is one of my favourite tea shops. It carries all sorts of Chinese teas and tea pots and tea cups and a few plastic tea tumblers. It did not carry glass ones. But not carrying the thing I was looking for did not mean I left the store empty-handed. Oh no. It does not work that way on a Saturday. Ever. You see, there were samples of tea to try. All of them wonderful, all of them crazy expensive. All I wanted to do was leave the store, because while tasting tantalizing, terrific teas and trying to listen to what the woman was saying about the teas is fine, there also happened to be something that was setting my spine on edge: awkward music in the background. Not just any music. Christmas music. By some sort of no-name singers. In a speciality Chinese tea shop. In November.

It was not loud, but I have superhero hearing and can name that tune in two notes as well as the singer so as you can imagine, that Christmas music was painfully distracting.

It took 23 Christmas songs, six tastings complete with stories about the tea and $58 Cdn. to get out of that store.

Then, on the way back to the car, it seemed only right to pop into a shop with huge signs that said Going Out of Business. Maybe the shop had glass tea tumblers.

Guess what? It did. But it also had Christmas music. Bad Christmas music. Or rather, Christmas music, badly done.

I was antsy and headed out into the noise of the crowded street, and walked the 15 steps to my car where there just happened to be a beautiful dog standing with her owner beside my car. She was a Husky — the dog, not the owner. Her name was Luna and after a minute of petting her, the angst of Christmas music badly done evaporated, and my breathing had returned to normal.

But it perturbed me, this too early for Christmas stuff. It had bothered me a bit ever Christmas stuff starting to appear in stores about a week before Hallowe’en. That’s just wrong.

I know retail is hard-assed about merchandising, but does that mean retail sets the schedule? Chunking up of the calendar year into seasons of shopping is past the point of being out of hand. It’s just plain nuts. Now, we have Christmas in July ads and promotions. Maybe it isn’t shopping that’s the addiction, it’s spending — proof of purchasing power — power being the operative word, because even if it’s borrowed power, the rush of it is still there.

Some economists would have us believe that consumer spending will lead us out of the depression we’re in — nationally, globally and personally? (It won’t.)

But I digress.

By early November, here in Toronto, we get Christmas pollution: lights, sounds, smells, visuals. Hearing Christmas music by some anonymous singers in a specialty tea shop pushed me over the edge, out of my comfort zone where I live in the do not say anything political world and into the realm of covert, take-no-prisoners activism. I am fed up: I’m going militant. No more pushing retailism, debtism, get-more-stuffism, out-doing-the neighbourism. No more.

Don’t know how I am going to do it yet, but I am going to start a campaign to get a by-law enacted: no Christmas music, no Christmas print ads, no Christmas TV or radio or internet commercials before December 2nd. Christmas in Toronto doesn’t need advance notice: people know when it is, even people who are not of that faith.

And in my new militancy, there will be a price to pay for non compliance: failure to adhere to the new bylaw of no Christmas music, decorations or ads before December 2 will result in a payback to the community; however, there will be heart and spirit to the bylaw. The offending business will have a choice about how the fine will be used:

  1. to cover the cost of providing food for 50 families over Christmas,
  2. to provide winter coats for women and children in shelters for abused women, or
  3. to cover the veterinary costs of sterilizing cats and dogs 10 local animal shelters.

Betcha the noise and visual pollution will end faster than any of us can sing a Christmas song. I’ll keep you posted on my progress of the Too Early for Christmas by-law.

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About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
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7 Responses to Way too early for Christmas

  1. terrisitagg says:

    You have my vote. Unequivocally, irreversibly, and most passionately. There is little that goes on that raises my temper more than being told by retailers “what I NEED”, and when I need it. We do not exchange gifts, I usually send my daughter money (to cover the cost of airfare to visit me), but we decided a long time ago that the crass commercial consumerism isn’t our definition of what started out as a celebration of the birth of a baby. When Julia was little, we would bake a little cake together, and on Christmas Eve sing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus. I decorated the house on December 15th, and the tree came down promptly on January 1st. There is nothing more offputting than Christmas “music” and decor and sales BEFORE Halloween. The frenzy retailers try to whip shoppers into is shameful. We just had Thanksgiving, which is BIGGER than Christmas here in the States, but the talk wasn’t about the turkey, or what people were thankful for, but of the Black Friday sales that started in some cases, at midnight on Thursday, THANKSGIVING DAY!! Between the horribly overscented cinnamon pine cones and the insipid music, I dread going to the grocery store, and am very glad that I am not the kind of person who goes to the mall. This year, we are going to sponsor a school in the Dominican Republic, that provides the only education available in a desperately poor barrio. (There is no public education available). Our money will provide meals, books, and tools to educate children and hopefully give them choices in life their parents didn’t have. These children aren’t raised with the concept that Christmas is about bigger, better, more, more, more. They consider themselves fortunate if the wealthy gringo’s that employ their parents think of them and pass along a trinket or a sweet.
    Ok. I didn’t mean to carry on like this, but you are right. The competition for shoppers, the pressure to make everything bigger and better has become overwhelming, and taken what used to be a fun time for sharing with family and friends and turned it into a competition that only the retailers win. (Oh, and I hold Martha Stewart largly responsible for this wanton consumerism and anxiety provoking atmosphere) Sign me up.

    • FS says:

      Cool. All votes needed. And clearly, you needed to get it off of your chest.

      I do not understand Black Friday, but I am developing an idea about the spread of capitalism and consumerism, and how it becomes more rabid and insidious each time it lands somewhere new. But I’m having trouble with it, because it’s not direct cause and effect: there’s that little thing called human nature, and that little thing is hardly uniform across all humans who have a nature. Hard to be an outsider social scientist. 😦

      Education where there hasn’t been any available is always an interesting gift. 🙂

      Allow me to riff and meander off of your response, if I may, about the things that popped into my head:

      Martha Stewart? All by herself? Wow. Who knew? And here I thought she was personally responsible for reviving the 1950s obsession which was a rip of the 1920s obsession of the perfectly designed home. Hmmm. But seriously: Do you ever wonder if it isn’t a bit of chicken and egg? Is the general level of intelligence of the society such that it falls for all marketing, OR have marketers caught whiff of a certain zeitgeist and capitalized on it? Or a mix of both? Or is it what having ‘things’ represents, and how Christmas is the one honking big way to give and get things?

      We have two point five generations of people in North America raised on shopping as the path to happiness self-identity. Remember that postcard by artist Barbara Kruger? I shop therefore I am. She did that in 1987. Maybe that meant the things I have, the things I can buy, make me the person I am. Today, it’s all about the bling, man. Christmas magnifies it.

      Some economists are worried that this generation of babies, raised in a time of less spending, will not revert to pre-2008 spending patterns when they get older.

      Then there are the retailers who turn to marketers for help selling product. Is it true that marketers invent things that the public swallows wholesale? Perhaps. There’s the an apple a day keeps the doctor away as well as the liquid lysol as a douching agent for women. Both are fabrications of ad agencies, and a public that was complicit in accepting everything that they read. Let’s not forget that Coke and 7-Up used to have ads showing babies drinking bottle of pop, with the copy informing mothers that it was good for their kids. What new mother ever wanted to be left behind? Not that it was restricted to the olden days. It’s all about being part of the pack, even if it’s the pack that doesn’t want to be part of the pack: the anti-pack, so to speak. There are ads geared to those people too. And marketers have honed in closely: there’s now something called neuromarketing. And we do have this predeliction for experts. Even if marketers lie about it: a VP of Marketing for one fast food company appearing in a TV commercial in a chef’s outfit..because chefs are oh so, au courant…

      We wouldn’t need a truth in advertising council if there was truth in advertising. But it does go WAAAY back… snake oil salesmen and travelling caravans of ancient times. Truly, our brains have not exactly evolved all that much. Our needs remain the same and how sellers of things adapt to say that they’ve the got the stuff to meet those needs is actually quite interesting.We want what we think will make us happy, and how we see, hear, smell or taste it, and when, matters. We tend, en masse, not to be too critical about it.

      At the end of the day, it’s about people; the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly of people and what, as people, we do. Although apparently in the US, a corporation is considered a person (individual?) so … maybe we are evolving into alternate life forms that don’t care about organic life forms that need air, clean water, and soil free of left-over chemicals from wars that get new life as crop fertilizers.

      Anywho, end of riff and rant. Your comment did get me goin!

      Let there be a noisy, smelly, visually cacaphonic Christmas season in the month within which it exists, and only that month December. As I develop a strategy for my Too Early for Christmas By-law, and a roll-out plan, I’ll be sure to share it all. ;-).

  2. Valerie says:

    I HAVE to agree with you on that one. Where do I sign?
    November is way too early for any Christmas stuff, but the trend seems to be accelerating.
    Last year, our office party was mid-december. Would you believe that this year, it ended up being last Friday. One full month before Christmas ! (the staff chose the place… same as last year… all booked up, closer to Christmas). Try to get into the spirit when there are big piles of autumn leaves still lying on every lawn…
    Eating Sushi, last Thursday, with Christmas elevator music in the background, just didn’t feel right….
    My family (my mom especially) started talking about Christmas mid-november. It was a big emergency. Needed to tell her what I wanted, what my kid wanted….
    Of course, saying: ” I really don’t need anything mom… let’s just enjoy each other’s presence ” is not a valid option. So I just HAD to come up with something. Made her a list of books. Had to go help her buy them last Saturday. She made me find more titles… she said she was giving more to the others (brothers, niece and nephews). I said ” that’s fine mom, these will be great”…. She wouldn’t hear of it….
    Christmas…. (heavy sigh).
    The things I wish for ? … Could never be put in a box (Thank God). They cannot be bought, and cannot be sold. So if it were me, I’d ban “Christmas shopping” altogether…

    • FS says:

      I purposefully left the whole mother thing out of the equation — THAT could get me into trouble. However, books are good. For the mother that can, and the daughter who wants it, here’s my suggestion of what to ask for: the six-volume set — The Modernist Cuisine: The art and science of cooking.

      It is quite possibly one of the most interesting book stories of the month, as well as amazing photographs, paper, printing, and recipes and information. Also blows apart some of the food and cooking myths perpetuated by celebrity chefs.

      Ban Christmas Shopping? Maybe an education program on shopping, the best approach for parents to use when buying adult children gifts, and how to best handle parental units who behave like adolescents…? 😉

      • Valerie says:

        Awh…. geesh ! Wish I’d had that book suggestion before ! Would have saved me quite some time… 😉
        An education program on shopping? What a fine idea ! 🙂
        However, as you pointed out, in your vivacious reply to Terrisitagg, the problem runs much deeper than just Christmas….

  3. shannon says:

    If only…

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