Holiday time shouldn’t be all year long

Just after Halloween, I stopped at the University Mall to pick up a birthday card for a friend. Upon entering the Hallmark store, I found my senses infiltrated by everything Christmas. Large artificial evergreen trees stood guard on either side of the entrance, decorated with gaudy ornaments and flashy tinsel. A peppermint candy display with little plush reindeer and snowmen toys dispersed in between quickly cleared my sinuses. All the while, George Strait’s new “Fresh Cut Christmas” album was filling the small store with his “charming” country twang. I couldn’t stand it.

Three days after Halloween, the entire mall is decked out for the holiday season. Stores like Dillard’s, Macy’s, and Pacific Sunwear all hauled out their Christmas displays in a meager attempt to kick-start a little Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, back at my apartment, my carved pumpkins from Halloween were still smiling their toothy grins – though they were getting quite soggy – my costume still sat on my chair from Guavaween, and my pumpkin seeds sat waiting to be roasted.

The downshift from Halloween to full-fledged Christmas wherever I went was quite a surprise, and I couldn’t help thinking of Jack Skellington’s initial reaction to stumbling into “Christmas Town” in Tim Burton’s cult classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Unlike in the movie, however, I was confused and disgusted instead of blessed and amazed. Just within the past ten years, I’ve witnessed the “start” of the holiday season pushed further and further towards the beginning of November to squeeze every penny – every tiny, over-commercialized dollar – out of merchandising campaigns and the year’s “hottest” toys.

The point is, I don’t like companies telling me when I should start preparing for certain holidays, and I certainly don’t allow myself to get suckered in. I enjoy celebrating holidays when it’s time to celebrate them. These stores, with all their gaudy lights, scented candles and “limited edition” Mickey Mouse ornaments you can find annually make me absolutely sick of Christmas by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.

Up north, where commercialization is more in conjunction with the shifting seasons, one can see that people still have their pumpkins out, children are still playing in piles of orange and red leaves, and people genuinely enjoy the process of the changing seasons. Sure, Tim Allen’s no doubt stellar performance in Santa Clause 3 arrived in theaters on Nov. 3, but I guarantee that most people living beyond the superficial strip malls and shopping centers of South Florida completely understand what it means to enjoy time as it progresses instead of jumping right along to the next big event.

This obsession with over-spending and over-commercialization is indicative of a much larger problem in America, though it seems everyone knows this. While cost of living is increasing annually and finding a reasonably priced apartment is getting harder and harder, Americans aren’t saving money. Instead, the newest consumer electronic or entertainment device seems to take priority, and companies are capitalizing on this. According to an article in the Washington Business Journal in 2005, Americans save only 0.1 percent of their disposable income, which is the lowest percentage the U.S. Department of Commerce has recorded since the monitoring of annual savings began in the late 1950s.

And why should they save? With all the sales going on during the year, people are gimmicked into thinking they’re saving money when they’re really frittering it away on things they wouldn’t buy otherwise. It reminds me of an editorial cartoon I saw where a woman responded with “That’s nonsense, I save all the time! I bought two pairs of shoes and saved $40!”

So now we come full circle. It’s “Holiday Time” according to Hallmark, Russell Stover and Toys ‘R’ Us – and what better time to attack people where it hurts, when it hurts? Do you really need to get your wife that singing penguin? How about that six hundred dollar Playstation 3? At that price, the thing better fly, drive me to work, and do my dishes. Lord knows that if you wait a couple years they’ll be flooding and the price will be sliced in half.

So save your money, and put some love into your gifts. No one wants that bulgy Santa. Do you really want your presents to be “regifted” as they were on that unforgettable Seinfeld episode?

As sick, disgusting and truly squeamish as it may sound, the holidays are truly for family and loved ones, not for the candy companies. Indulge a little, sure, but not less than a month after Halloween. My philosophy is if you celebrate longer than a large, half-dead tree stays green in your living room, there’s something wrong.

Jeff Sheridan is a sophomore majoring in art.