On the night of Saturday, November 1, I went to a house party in the Fox Point section of Providence. Standing in the beer line, flanked by Cruella DeVille and Catwoman, I was both confused and underdressed.
"Isn't Halloween over?" I asked the guy, wearing a cow suit, who was pumping the keg.
"Halloween?" he snorted. "It's HalloWEEK, bro!"
The next morning, I went to Providence Place. Standing in line at Borders, I heard what sounded like "Silent Night" playing from the store's speakers.
"Are you guys playing holiday music?" I asked the cashier, handing over my Visa.
"It's Aretha Franklin's new holiday album," he proudly confirmed. "We're selling it exclusively at Borders."
At first, these two events — Halloween on November 1 and Christmas on November 2 — were merely a weird coincidence: back-to-back encounters with a few deviants and a peppy Borders employee. Over the course of the following week, a more disturbing reality made itself known: Yuletide creep was suddenly omnipresent.
CVS rolled out its "holiday centers" and B101 morphed into Christmas 101 ("Southern New England's new home for the holidays!"), relentlessly piping "Jingle Bell Rock," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and more obscure jingles (Barry Manilow, "Because It's Christmas") onto an unsuspecting public.
One could speculate on the reasons behind this very premature decking of the halls, but anyone who's worked in corporate marketing need not. The simpering economy be damned, this is a mindless force-feed of consumerism, and obviously not a genuine swelling of Christmas cheer.
It's true that some holidays, under some circumstances, merit a two-day pre/post grace period. Who can't see the fun of a few firecrackers on July 2 (America!) and drinking green beer after St. Patty's ($2 pitchers!). Our country's descent into perpetual holiday-dom, however, makes me see red.
Take November, for example. The eleventh month, long appreciated as a brisk time to enjoy autumn, elections, and Thanksgiving, has regressed into a tawdry free-for-all. Seriously, if this boardroom-conceived monster, HalloThanksMas (ChristGivingWeen?), isn't Exhibit A for "Free Market" regulation, what is?
By trick-or-treating, giving thanks, and dreaming of a white Christmas virtually all at once, we've traded warm apple cider for one of those syrupy Dr. Pepper/Mountain Dew/Hi-C cocktails that kids make at Burger King. Gross.
Sociologist would say that young adults who prolong a holiday ought to reassess their mores. Similarly, psychologists might say that a culture that collectively responds to bad news — global warming, two wars, a recession — by cranking holiday jingles two months in advance is showing signs of massive denial.
But forget sociology. Forget psychology. Let's talk simple mathematics: this year, the numbers — eight days of Halloween, 53 days of Christmas — tell the whole, ridiculous story. How soon until we start shouting, in unison, the days, minutes, and seconds until 2009?
Don't like math? Try literature. It was Charles Dickens's Ebenezer Scrooge who vowed, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." He wasn't talking about Aretha's new holiday CD.