A couple of weeks ago — on Oct. 1 — several houses in my neighborhood put up their Halloween decorations. While I was running some errands, I couldn't help thinking about the fact that I've never seen Halloween decorations so close to Labor Day. Then I went into one of those large, chain-store drugstores, and, you guessed it — they had already placed some little Santa Claus figures around the store. What's going on? Why are people in such a rush to celebrate holidays? If this trend continues, are we going to start celebrating the Fourth of July in June?
I understand why people who sell decorations, cards, and gifts try to get the public to start buying early. But why are so many people buying into buying early? Are they afraid if they don't do their Halloween shopping a month ahead of time that the stores will run out of bad candy and fake blood?
Maybe it's just another example of people always being in a hurry these days. This is an era in which people feel they have to call home on their cell phones to say that they will be home in five minutes. Some folks would rather skip a movie than stand in a short line. And while waiting for their food to cook, some people angrily think, "I can't believe how long the microwave is taking."
But I suspect the hurried holiday thing is more specific than that. I think people are in a hurry to have a good time. Maybe with all the serious things going on in the world, they're desperate for some fun or joy in their lives. They figure that if it's going to make them feel good to think about Christmas, why should they have to wait until December? If buying Thanksgiving Jell-O moulds in the shape of Pocahontas and John Smith is going to give them a warm, family feeling, why not buy them in August? If you're a life-of-the-party kind of guy, why should you have to wait until the week before April Fools' Day before buying that whoopee cushion?
I guess the feeling is that if we keep celebrating, we won't have to face reality and we'll just have one long, enjoyable holiday. But of course, that won't work. It hasn't worked out in sports, as sports seasons become longer and longer and merge into each other. When the NBA playoffs are interminable, how enthusiastic can you get about the finals? When I was a little kid, I was thrilled when Halloween came around. I could wear a costume and go trick-or-treating at all the scary, decorated houses in the neighborhood. Now the kids next door probably have had their Halloween costumes since the summer, and by the time the holiday rolls around, they will have been looking at all the "scary" houses in the neighborhood for about a month. How special will the actual day of Halloween be to them?
That's the problem. If you start trimming the tree when you should be trimming the turkey, will you still be in the Christmas spirit when Jack Frost starts nipping at your nose?
So, control yourself if you get the urge to buy those cute little valentines for your kids while they're at summer camp. Don't hang those Christmas stockings or polish the menorah at least until the baseball season is over. If we don't restrain ourselves and reverse this trend of longer and longer holiday seasons, pretty soon nobody will care about any holidays. I'm going to do my part. My birthday is in June, and I will not accept any gifts one day before Jan. 1.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2003 CBS. All rights reserved.