Christmas in July?
A quick look at local retail displays are leading more and more people to believe that a celebration of Christmas in July is not as farfetched and fantastic as we've believed in the past. Over the years, the Christmas/Chanukah/Year-End Appreciation shopping season has begun earlier and earlier. Have you noticed it too? This is what's happened so far this year:
The public school year began in August, so we found ourselves shopping for school supplies, kids clothing, etc. in July. At that time, stores were displaying Halloween decorations already. They must have reasoned that some parents would like to get the shopping done for the school year's first festive occasion at the same time (Labor Day doesn't quite count: a few red-white-and-blue accessories plus a truckload of barbeque food the weekend of the holiday is usually all that's needed).
Retailers obviously want to get Halloween shopping over with as soon as possible so that they can move on to the next big holiday: Christmas. "What about Thanksgiving?" one may ask. Again, the shopping required for that holiday might include big ticket items like new furniture, decor, and kitchenware if you're hosting the traditional family dinner and want to impress everyone, but we're not inundated with thousands of Thanksgiving gadgets, trinkets and songs to get us to Buy, Buy, Buy the way that we are for the December holidays.
So how early did the Christmas shopping season start this year? We can get a clue from the September 13th layaway starting date for the blue big box store known as "Wally World" in some circles. Shoppers have until December 13 to pay off their merchandise. September 13th is only six weeks away from the end of July, isn't it?
There is a strong historic element to the holiday shopping season being moved up on the calendar. It dates back to 1939. The unwritten rule was that holiday shopping didn't begin until after Thanksgiving was celebrated. This was demonstrated through the annual Thanksgiving Day parades nationwide which culminated in the much-anticipated appearance of Santa Claus. A month-long Christmas shopping season would then begin.
Before 1939, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the final Thursday in November. The Retail Dry Goods Association warned President Franklin Roosevelt that they'd experience a drop in sales that year because the holiday fell on the last day of the month, November 30th. The president had an easy solution: he declared that the new day for our national Thanksgiving celebration would be the next-to-last Thursday of the month, which instantly added an extra week to the shopping season. Who knew that our Commander-in-Chief was also a retail genius!
The Friday after Thanksgiving became a prime shopping day for many Americans, especially people who prefer shopping over football. Deadlocked traffic and crazy crowds in Philadelphia led to law enforcement referring to that day as Black Friday in the mid 1960's. A more positive accounting spin become popular in the '80s, in which the "black" refers to profits as opposed to the red ink used to show debt on old fashioned adding machines.
Black Friday has almost become a holiday in itself, with incredible deals and sometimes shameless gimmicks to get people into stores. The sale times have gone back from 5 a.m. Friday morning, to midnight Thursday night, and Wally World starts the shopping craze at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. At first, workers threatened to strike. Someone had to draw the line!
Others will draw the line by shopping online rather than standing in line during the holiday madness.