All quiet on the holiday front

The chief of security at one of the largest area malls reported that this year’s Black Friday was the smoothest in 13 years.  He didn’t speculate on why that was true, so here’s a poll.  Pick whichever explanation(s) seem most plausible:

  1. The population has grown more civil.
  2. More people are shopping online.
  3. After all that’s happened this year, including the election, we’re too numb to respond to the usual holiday trappings.

Yesterday, I thanked the waitress at a local waffle place for the lack of “holiday” music.  “I know,” she said.  “Isn’t it great?  I’m hoping management keeps it up.”

I distinguish between Christmas music, which I enjoy at this time of year, and Holiday music.

People reading this blog in other countries may not be clear on the distinction.  Because of our nation’s diversity, in the public sphere, both at work and in stores, we say “Happy Holiday’s” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  The intent is not to offend people of other faiths.  The result is largely to trivialize the whole thing.  If you’ve ever gotten a song like “Little Saint Nick,” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” stuck in your mind, you know what I mean.

For helping spark the trend toward silence or simply generic music in stores, I present my 2012 Corporate Hero award to Shoppers Drug Mart, a popular Canadian pharmacy chain.  They started playing Holiday music the day after Halloween, but received so many complaints that they pulled the plug “until further notice.”

One comment on their Facebook page read, “Starting this music so early takes the sacredness and meaning out of what should be such a beautiful season.”  That sums up “the Holidays” in their entirety.

Luke’s gospel tells us that after the shepherds saw the baby Jesus, they ran off to Bethlehem to tell everyone, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”  Lk 2:19.

Pondering things in our heart is how an event becomes an experience.  It’s how we come to appreciate things, even simple acts like buying a gift or having waffles with a friend.

I never begrudge our merchants the chance to make a living at this time of year, and I appreciate them even more for pulling the plug on noxious music so I can treasure more of these things in my heart.

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14 Responses to All quiet on the holiday front

  1. Amen, brother.

    I do add a practical #4 to your list of explanations for the quiet on Friday: the controversial 8 PM Thursday openings of many stores. By the time I rolled out to snag a bargain at 7:30 AM Friday, the crowds had come and gone.

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    • Duly noted. I try not to patronize stores that strongarm their employees into working on Thanksgiving day, but that is another issue. Let’s hope lots of people have simply recoiled from past excess and opting out of the craziness.

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      • complynn says:

        I not only made a vow to avoid stores that had workers skip a national family holiday, I wrote notes to all that I normally patronize and explained my seasonal business would be done elsewhere this year in protest.

        I understand it was a decision made to increase sales, but Thanksgiving doesn’t have an comparable swap the way Hanukkah and Christmas do. The inch encroachment on retailer workers’ family celebrations is fast becoming a mile.

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      • You’re right about how fast traditional “rights” disappeared. When I was a teen, I considered my parents’ generation materialistic, but they would not have dreamed of compelling people to work on Thanksgiving.

        Good idea with the notes, and I think I’ll look at including positive comments to those stores that did not run with the herd. Nordstrom’s announced it would not and I don’t think Sears or Penny’s did either. Should be easy to check.

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      • complynn says:

        Oh! Thanks for making my gesture better. Now I will follow up with positive notes, too.

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  2. complynn says:

    We have a Clear Channel station in our area that switched its format to 100% Christmas music in mid-November. I’ve not yet talked to anyone who likes the idea of non-stop, mostly pop, for six weeks.
    If they are listening to the unhappy buzz around town, maybe they will make the same turn-around decision as your example did.

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  3. Thank you Morgan – you have perfectly expressed my feelings about the “holiday” vs “Christmas” issue (especially music and commercialism). I love the December days of Advent, which lead up to Christmas and tend to get lost unless you honor them – they are meant to quiet us down and wake us up to what is holy. When I shop for gifts in December, I try as much as I can to only shop at small local stores and to wish people “Merry Christmas!” whenever I get the chance. It feels like a brave and radical thing to do. Very counter-culture 🙂

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  4. Adam says:

    Can I offer another possible reason for a smooth Black Friday: people are realizing that it’s not worth the hassle. Considering the headache of dealing with the extra crowds, and the fact that stores will have plenty of other sales between now and January (counting all the after-Christmas sales) the savings just aren’t worth the time spent waiting for the stores to open.

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  5. Rosi says:

    I’m old enough to remember when all stores were closed on Sundays and all holidays. And somehow we all survived. I appreciate stores and restaurants that either play no music or quiet music. They are harder and harder to find. This is a good post and your readers have left some helpful comments. Thanks.

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    • I think the change has been largely driven by the huge big box stores that come instantly to mind. Their economics of scale that are hard to ignore in hard times. As another comment pointed out here, the main thing we can do is vote with our patronage. I especially like to support local or unique stores when possible.

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