Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's Already Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

It's working. This stupid thing of retailers to begin the holiday season is starting to work on me even though I'm stubbornly refusing to admit it.

I know that because of last year and the fact that consumers didn't spend as much as retailers needed for the holiday season, this year they're trying to make it longer in hopes that it encourages us to buy more and spend more.

So, instead of waiting until right before Thanksgiving, this year, the weekend after Halloween, the holiday season is in full swing.

I'm trying to ignore it. It's rather hard.

For example, my mother and I went out this weekend in hopes of going to The Fresh Market, Target and Kohls for a leisurely browse. I didn't need anything new but it's quite fun to look, just in case that perfect sweater/top/jacket/pair of trousers/shoes is out there.

We started at The Fresh Market. This is a store that's rather like Whole Foods for those of you who aren't familiar with it. It's like one of the Whole Foods you find in one of the smaller cities like Cincinnati, rather than the two-story mega versions of Whole Foods you find in L.A., London and the larger cities. It's mostly organic. The prices are high but everything's rather....fancy. They have small produce, cheese, bakery and meat sections but what they have is the upscale things, the fancy cheeses, the gourmet produce and the luxury meats. My mother and I are both Food-Network inspired cooks and we love to browse stores like this to see what they have.

So we decided to go to The Fresh Market on Saturday to see what fancy produce they had and to just have a look. It's an expensive store, just like Whole Foods, but when the ingredients are good and hard to find elsewhere, sometimes it's worth the splurge.

We got inside and I got excited. Figs were on sale. I love figs. I miss fresh from the tree figs like I used to get in California. I picked some up. My mother and I navigated to the produce aisle which is along the wall. Oddly, there was a line of people in front of it. I'm talking one of those lines of people militaristically waiting, very seriously, for something. It made it quite hard to get to the produce or even to browse.

Then we actually looked at what they were waiting for. Well, it turned out we had stumbled into The Fresh Market's holiday open house sampler day. All around the rather small store were stations with free samples of things that you might serve during a holiday party. This meant it was impossible to get anywhere to look at anything. We weren't about to join the line of free samplers because the line was long and we had plans for lunch. However, we were still wanting to browse but everywhere you turned, the line wove around each part of the store. When people had their free samples, they simply hovered where there was space to eat so they could move on to the next station. This was lovely for them but not the smartest choice for those of us that simply wanted to shop.

The whole store was also decorated for Christmas. They had the Christmas cookies and baking supplies adorned with holiday glitter so we couldn't miss them. The Christmas coffees and teas were on prominent display. There was the scent of cinnamon everywhere.

It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I stubbornly fought it. It got harder as I saw all of the accoutrements that go with the holidays. I love Christmas. I love all of the things that go with Christmas. When you're being invited to jump in with both feet and tempted by the things you love, it's hard to ignore it.

My mother fought against it too. Of course, she ended up with two chocolate advent calendars in her cart. In her defense, they're quite hard to find and with all the grandchildren, they love opening a door that counts down to Christmas each day during December.

Still, by the time we left, I was starting to think I really needed to get on with my Christmas shopping.

After lunch, we moved onto Kohls. Well, naturally, there were Christmas songs playing. There were the gift displays. Christmas trees were everywhere. It was hard to find the every day clothes that you want to buy yourself amongst the clothes that are clearly positioned to be gift options to others.

Which leads me to one of my problems with Christmas beginning this early. Generally, once the holiday season begins and I start buying gifts for others in earnest, I have a general ban on buying things for myself. This is because a) it's a time for giving to others and, b) because if I see something I like, it provides a nice option to tell someone when they ask for a Christmas list.

Because of this ban, if I do contemplate buying myself something, guilt follows. Sometimes, it's overrideable. Like last year, I bought a jacket for myself because it was $7 and it was a puffy jacket and just how often do you see a deal like that?

Yet still I had the guilt.

This year, it's only the first week of November. Having started a new job in which I'm required to wear business casual, I'm still not fully stocked in my wardrobe. This is because my last job allowed me to wear jeans, t-shirts and other casual attire. While I have some business casual wear, I'm still looking to expand.

However, when you go shopping in order to browse for possible work wear and you're confronted, head on, with Christmas, you suddenly feel...guilty.

In Kohls, my sudden need to start buying gifts suddenly kicked in.

It began to be combined with a sudden desire to sniff the sparkly sugar cookie candles and lovingly pat the peppermint-candy soaps that were on display. It made me want to "aw" over the cute snowmen that were tempting me with their snow and sparkles.

In short, the retailers were starting to win.

Then we went to Target. The dollar section was filled with Christmas items. Everywhere, there was some small indication that it was time to start Christmas shopping. The pet aisles had cute antlers to adorn your dog/cat, stockings filled with chew toys and Christmas packaged dog biscuits. The clothing section had t-shirts emblazoned with holiday designs. The toy aisles had swelled to include all of the items that call out to children to be added to lists. Then there were the Christmas aisles, lit by the glow of many trees and their multi-coloured lights.

Yes, it was, indeed, beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Even the weather decided to help. While I was driving to my parents on Friday night, the clouds were heavy and 45 minutes into the trip, big, fat, beautiful snowflakes began to fall...and fall. I ended up driving through what felt like a blizzard where the giant, cascading flakes came so fast that I could barely see between them.

By Saturday morning, in time for the beginning of this holiday injected shopping trip, the ground was sparkling white with a thick layer of frost and the remnants of the snowfall the night before. It looked like a winter wonderland.

It's hard to resist the call of the holiday season. I'm trying yet part of me feels like it might be ok to just accept the inevitable and not mind the strains of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," when I hear them in every store.

Yet, there's still Thanksgiving to think about before Christmas is really under way. Still, maybe it wouldn't hurt to make a mug of peppermint hot chocolate and start my Christmas list and Christmas cards.

Eek gads. See what the retailers have done to me?

Happy Monday!

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