The tea lights in the pumpkins were extinguished, and not a moment after, The Holidays began. Christmas trees started popping up in your feeds, and retailers, if they’ve even waited this long, unveiled their holiday displays.
Around this time of year, I feel it’s my duty to be the messenger of the unpopular opinion that this is ridiculous.
Let’s acknowledge the truth, which is that the darker months of the year, for many people, tend to feel drabber than say, June, or May. We may find ourselves feeling a bit more lethargic, or more prone to depression, or, well, just more bored than during other times of the year. And festive occasions are a welcome antidote to the darkness.
But the extent to which The Holidays, as a marketable commodity, have so far surpassed the appropriate level of supplementary sunshine is jolting. That the messaging arrives earlier every year, and is delivered with more evocative fervor, is notable. That the sole focus of society will be swept up into the chaos of The Holidays from now through New Years is absurd. That so many people profess to loathe the “inevitable” stress of this season while simultaneously upholding and participating in the chaotic cycle is sad.
What happens in our culture immediately following Halloween is not merely about being festive, cultivating joy, or bringing light to dark days. It is in no small part a collective obeying of the whims of marketers, who direct that something as small and disposable as a stocking stuffer must be purchased two months in advance, who launch holiday advertising campaigns so far in advance of the holiday season as to be physically jarring, and on and on. Make no mistake about it: the emphasis of the importance of The Holidays is about merchandisers and brands, big and small, needing to reach their annual sales quotas by garnering explosive numbers during the holiday season. It is about the message: Sell, sell, sell. And, in turn: buy, buy, buy.
Anytime our focus is being drawn so zealously to outer displays of celebration and affection, to shiny, sparkly things, we must question the motives behind it.
Unpopular opinion: If you need to start shopping for stocking stuffers in the first week of November, you likely need to restructure your schedule.
Unpopular opinion: If it takes you two whole months to complete your Christmas shopping, you may need to consider being more discriminating with who and the number of people for whom you buy gifts.
Unpopular opinion: this time of year does not have to become a stupor of spending and consumption, a fugue state from which you will reawaken in January, wondering where all your money has gone, and why none of your pants fit, and what even happened between October 31 and December 24th.
Anything that pulls you out of the present moment so insistently and unrelentingly, even if it’s shiny and twinkly and packaged in a gift set of five, is detrimental to your being able to inhabit the ordinary beauty of say, poor old November 5th.