Guest Column: Is Christmas coming too early?

It seems that each year, we see Christmas items sold in stores earlier than the year before. I went into an arts and crafts store in August and they had already set up three aisles of Christmas decorations near the entrance of the store.

While August may not be too early to think about Christmas gifts, is it too early for retailers to push decorations, ornaments and trees on us, and why do some people choose to display them early as well?

When is a good time to start displaying the Christmas spirit?

A article by Paul Collins points out that early Christmas shopping campaigns are hardly new. In fact, Collins’ article is about how retailers have been urging early Christmas shopping since 1885, not for commercialization purposes, but to alleviate stress on employees.

In 1903, Florence Kelley, co-founder of the NAACP, wrote an essay titled “The Travesty of Christmas” in which she supported early shopping in order to avoid abuses of overtime and child labor in December. Since then, it’s been very common to see “Christmas in September” and sometimes even sooner.

While Americans no longer have to deal with overtime and child labor abuse, we are dealing with retailers whose annual performance is linked to success in the fourth quarter. This is why we see the increase in bargains starting in October, according to founder Edgar Dworsky in a article, “125 shopping days left: Retailers start Xmas deals,” written by Kelli B. Grant.

Since I find it annoying that businesses start selling early and I’ve heard the same complaints from others, I wondered how many people actually purchase early. The CNBC article quotes Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation, that “40 percent of holiday shoppers say they begin shopping before Halloween.”

That makes sense. Especially with what Americans have gone through in our current economy, I can understand many wanting to spread their Christmas spending over time. It is the smart thing to do.

What still doesn’t make sense to me is why people start putting up Christmas lights and trees before Thanksgiving. That surely has nothing to do with Christmas shopping. This is the one question that will not be easy to answer, because everyone has their own reasons.

Walking around campus, I have already noticed a Christmas tree up, and four of my neighbors already have Christmas lights on outside of their home. One of those neighbors has had them on since before Halloween!

After some online research, I found that most polls show an overwhelming majority wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start decorating. I find this somewhat of a relief.

I just feel that we should be able to celebrate each holiday for what it is — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all of the others. Each holiday is special and each represents a different event in history that is important to some, if not all of us.

While we will not be able to control early advertising for Christmas shopping, what we can control is how we perceive it.

Instead of finding it offensive that retailers choose to advertise and display Christmas merchandise in August or September, maybe think of those who live paycheck to paycheck and benefit from the extra time. It may be you or someone you know.

Instead of finding it offensive that people are decorating too early for the holidays, we should be thankful that people are celebrating at all. This year, the people of Tacloban, Philippines, will not be celebrating Christmas as they did before.

We should forget the “commercialization” of Christmas and think of ways we can help others, whether near or far, human or animal, or the environment. A contribution to someone or something other than us is the definition of the Christmas spirit.

An unknown author recently published this sentiment in the article “How to Stop Christmas from Coming Too Early”: “Once you stop buying into the commercial vision of Christmas, and commit yourself to living your own vision, Christmas can never come too early, nor last too long.”