Never too soon for Christmas shopping

Mall Santa and consumer anxiety arrives early this year.

Christmas seems to arrive earlier each year.

Over the weekend my family spent a day in Vernon. Our Vernon trips typically include a stop at a favourite restaurant, some time at the city park (depending on time and weather), and a bit of shopping. That means checking out some shops downtown, maybe a big box, as well as the mall.

After our downtown visit and lunch, we made our way to the mall. There, we found several egregious signs that local commerce has fully transitioned into Christmas mode. For starters, all the glowing, glittering decorations have begun to appear in common areas and window displays. Another sign is the bits, bobbles and products that only seem to appear for the Christmas shopping rush. I’m not talking about ornaments, lights and related seasonal decor, but the as-seen-on-TV-ish items that no one really needs: Novelty money banks and revolving tie racks and electric socks and LED-lit thingamajigs. And then there’s the tacky clothing, classic Christmas sweaters, funny slippers and the like. Also, there’s all those unique food products that return to the shelves from wherever they’re made or stored, items such as generic jams, cheeses, crackers, candy, teas, etc., all with unrecognizable labels and most of questionable nutritional value.

These things I expect to see. Maybe not this early, but no big whoop.

The shocker for me came in seeing Santa. On the second-to-last weekend in November. In a faux winter diorama, complete with giant snowman bodyguards, sat the jolly old man, with a child on lap, posing for pictures. Upon seeing this, I felt a mix of irritation and disappointment. Sorry mall Santa, but I don’t like or appreciate having my traditions reshaped by retail.

I was also concerned, for walking beside me was my five-year-old boy, who still believes in Mr. Claus. I watched my boy as we walked by the festive photo op. Despite being temporarily fixated on the scene, he expressed no interest in stopping. I asked if he wanted to have his picture taken with Santa. He wasn’t sure. I think he’s still kind of nervous about approaching that bigger-than-life personality, let alone sitting with him for a picture.

My upset I kept to myself. Which brings me to another sign of Christmas: disgruntled shoppers.

This was another thing I didn’t expect to see so soon, and in such abundance. But there they were. Some were snapping at store employees for being too slow. Some snapped at each other. My wife witnessed one person who repeatedly said aloud, she couldn’t stand being there and had to get out. Interestingly, this distraught person was walking alone, and without any form of communications device. What a strange phenomena, the way some people let themselves get all riled up while shopping for Christmas. It’s not as though the date has changed, or the holiday has suddenly snuck up on us – though I suppose it can feel that way.

Maybe it’s a good thing to have the commercial aspect of Christmas pressed upon us sooner than later. That way we might be encouraged to get everything done ahead of time, and be free of the related anxieties and animosity in time for the holiday. Or at least until the Boxing Day sales begin.