Caught in nasty bind of the Holidays

Well, let’s see
– in September they started putting out the Halloween candy in
the grocery stores.
Well, let’s see – in September they started putting out the Halloween candy in the grocery stores. Then in October we began to be besieged with all the Thanksgiving rigmarole and by the first of November the stores were all decorated for Christmas. By now, for those of you who haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, too late, sorry – the stores are now into Spring fashions. Gotta stay on your toes these days; if you wait around until the actual holiday approaches to get into the mood you’ve already blown your chance.

Me, I’m still hovering around Labor Day – you know, the official end of summer, time to get the kiddies off to school and start paying attention to football. But for weeks now every time I go to the mall I find my teeth are being jarred by the unwelcome sound of Gene Autry singing Christmas songs – what’s with that? Christmas isn’t for … uh, for … well, for a long time yet. I don’t have my head into wintry scenes and Salvation Army bellringers and divorce clients arguing about who gets the kids for vacation this year. How can it possibly be Thanksgiving?

Maybe it’s the state of the news. The ho-ho-ho is a little harder to dredge up when it seems a fair bet that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is going to be pulling a sleigh full of cruise missiles through the skies over Baghdad real soon. And it would be nice if we could go three days without a major local company announcing a new round of layoffs (“Intel revealed today that it will be cutting it’s workforce back by another 15 percent. Since they’re already down to seven employees that means only one guy gets canned, but still…”).

We seem to be caught in a nasty bind of our own making. We’ve come to rely so heavily on the idea of giving massive amounts of gifts for the holidays that now the economy is dependent on us getting to the stores and spending more and more every year. It has become an integral part of the holiday season to hear news stories on retail sales projections and surveys of how much money people are handing out to buy presents. It’s like some kind of national test – did we do well enough for the people who make and sell the toys and gadgets and gewgaws this year? If not, those people, and eventually we, will suffer, so come on, folks! Let’s try harder! Get out there and shop! If we don’t increase retail revenues by at least 3.74 percent over last year the whole economy will go in the tank, so do your patriotic duty and grab those credit cards.

There has to be a better way of fostering a healthy economy than depending on everyone to give everyone else lots of largely unnecessary presents every December. I mean, I don’t know about you, but for me regularly scheduled mandatory consumerism just isn’t that much fun any more. And if it’s not fun, what are we doing it? Remember that thing about “T’is the Season to be Jolly”? I’ve been looking, and I think my jolly has gone plumb missing.

Of course, if we try to get sane about holiday giving, about a third of the workforce will be in serious trouble, and we can’t have that, so it appears that we have no choice but to go through this annual ritual of lemmingesque behavior, fighting for parking, trudging through stores with lists of people to buy for despite lack of a clue what they might want or need, and then spending the rest of the winter cowering in fear of the credit card bills.

I don’t know – I have this nagging feeling that we’ve screwed up somewhere.

Robert Mitchell practices law in Morgan Hill. His column has appeared in The Dispatch for more than 20 years. It’s published every Tuesday.

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