Sunday, November 17, 2013

A big commercial racket

"Look, Charlie, let's face it. We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket. It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."

- Lucy Van Pelt (1965)

As a child, growing up in the 70s, the Christmas season was something that happened in December.  In our home there was a German Adventskalender with little chocolates behind the paper doors to help you count down to December 25th.  Sometime in the 90s it got moved forward to the last week of November.  But even in 1995, my first year dressing windows at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, the spectacular Christmas window displays did not go in until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  Nowadays Christmas is a two month long retail extravaganza beginning the day after Halloween.  Even in Japan.

I was surprised to see Christmas decorations up in Kyoto on the 1st of November.  It's odd for many reasons, first being that Japan is not a Christian nation.  But like Lucy says in the quote from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" above, Christmas in America is a "big commercial racket".  It has almost nothing to do with religion.  But what makes it even more odd is that it is Christmas that is being sold to the Japanese.  There is no religiously neutral "Happy Holidays" sloganeering, which would sort of make sense in a society where about 70% of the population claim no religious affiliation.  The funniest part, from what I understand, is that there is no actual Christmas celebration.  December 25th comes and goes like any other day in Japan.  No Santa Claus, no Jesus, no eggnog.  So it really is just a "big commercial racket", a way for retailers to try and sell extra stuff.  Or not.

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