Saturday, November 10, 2007

THE CITY DESK - Rory Riddler

When Did Halloween Get
Run Over By Christmas?

Maybe it is the pumpkin shortage that got to me, but I’m really missing the normal flow of the seasons. Sometime shortly after Labor Day, Sears opened their Christmas trim-a-tree display. Even the sales people winced a bit at all the comments they were getting about jumping the gun.

It was bad enough a few years ago to see retailers rush to put up Christmas right after Halloween. But now, to see aisles of the undead competing with Frosty the Snowman sends shudders up my spine.

I got a big dose of this kind of holiday compression when I tuned in to Tim Ezell’s segment on Channel 2 one morning last week. He was promoting a St. Louis County park that was holding a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the first of November!

Of course Halloween got its start simply as the eve of All Saints Day. Bad enough to have the good works of thousands of Saints (at least the thousands that existed pre-Vatican II) upstaged by an annual costumed sugar harvest. Now it’s being further downgraded to “Christmas Tree Lighting Day” by the St. Louis County Parks System. Sorry Saint Peter.

Then in the calendar section I saw that Fete de Noel de Soulard was going to take place last Saturday, November 3rd, with the arrival of Santa in Soulard! Are they sure he didn’t just get drunk at Mardi Gras and forget to go home?

I went to Schnucks on Zumbehl with my brother that same Saturday. And what to my wondering eyes should appear…but a bell ringer for the Salvation Army Tree of Lights. It seems that after falling a bit short last year, they decided to start a week or two earlier. This put them in direct competition with a poor guy trying to collect money for diabetes research. I gave him a dollar on the way out just because I felt sorry for him having to compete with the bell ringers. He might want to try selling candy next time. (And yes, I am only kidding about the candy.)

Keeping holidays separate has always been important around our house. Our daughter was scheduled to be induced on October 31st. but my wife Sue told the doctor that wasn’t happening. First, we had a four year old son to take trick or treating and secondly, we weren’t going to have our daughter’s birthday compete with Halloween.

My father remembers when families got their Christmas trees just a few days before the holiday and decorated them on Christmas Eve. For younger readers, and by that I mean anyone born after 1950, you may find that hard to believe. Rent a copy of the Bishop’s Wife, the good version with Cary Grant. You’ll see he’s helping decorate the Christmas tree on December 24th.

Today I feel like Scrooge if the tree isn’t up and decorated by the second week in December. That’s a bit trickier with a real tree. I’m still waiting for bio-engineers to make a tree whose needles won’t turn brown and fall off till January 2nd.

What all of these little assaults end up doing, is reducing Thanksgiving to the “Half-Time” show of the Christmas Shopping Season. Call me old fashioned…wait, no, that makes me sound too old. Call me a neo-traditionalist. I remember when Christmas was “unveiled” by the big department stores the Friday after Thanksgiving.

That’s when your parents loaded the family into the ’59 Chevy and you would all drive downtown to admire the Christmas windows at Famous-Barr and Stix, to visit Santa Land (before Santa started hanging out in Soulard all year) and to see the wonderful decorations and displays that graced the main floor. Sure the downtown department stores became economic dinosaurs in the 1970s, but it really isn’t asking too much for Macys to keep a little more of that Miracle On 34th Street feeling alive.

Perhaps I’m a little overprotective of Thanksgiving, but I enjoy contemplating harvest time, our debt to the Pilgrims, to Native Americans and to college football. Once the turkey and cranberry sauce has been relegated to the status of leftovers, then I’m ready for the start of the Christmas Season. I just want to enjoy all the holidays and season’s of the year without someone putting them in a blender and making them come out homogenized…like most of the Disney characters of the past twenty years.

Maybe I’m just tired of having to be a quick change artist, rushing to get up the next set of holiday decorations before I’m done enjoying the current ones. At this rate I’ll have to install a conveyor belt to get boxes of decorations out of the basement faster.

Personally I blame the 2008 Presidential Election. Several states keep battling to be the first primary state in a giant game of chicken called “How early can you schedule a 2008 primary election and still call it the 2008 election?” Now that the Iowa Caucus has been moved up to January 3rd, New Hampshire is probably eyeing New Years. This, of course, caused a rift in the space-time continuum which explains Santa Claus being spotted in Soulard before we even Fall Back for Daylight Savings Time.

It may also all be a result of global warming. Santa’s reindeer are becoming confused and disoriented as the ice shelves melt around them. Perhaps I can get a government grant to study that.
At this rate, we’ll be handing out candy canes at the door next Halloween.