Mom was aghast. “One day they will start advertising Christmas before Thanksgiving.” Dad responded, “They will have trees up by Halloween.” Someone laughed at the ludicrous prophesy Alfred Schaal uttered in our church one fall morning in 1960.
In the early 1960s, stores made the most out of Christmas. The mercantile machine roared from its Indy-style start each Friday after Thanksgiving. Macy’s Parade declared, “Gentleman, start your engines” and for five heady weeks the push was on for “Chatty Kathy” and anything “Milton Bradley.” TV discovered “Mattel” and “Mattel” understood advertising.
Each week, sandwiched between commercials advertising “Lincoln Building Blocks” and “Easy-Bake Ovens,” one sage after another decried the commercialization of Christmas. White flocked trees reminded us of a Bing Crosby Christmas we never knew in South Texas. Solid blue lights shining from artificial silver trees garishly hawked a change in the gentle, Frank Capra Christmas quickly receding from our grasp.
This year, one week before Halloween, shelves of closeout sales on hideous masks and grotesque decorations struggled to empty their spaces as Christmas lights and spangled balls magically appeared.
With only the slimmest of nods to Thanksgiving, five weeks became ten and Mr. Macy found himself an antiquated relic of commercial days long past. The “Shell Game from Arkansas” replaced the “Miracle on 34th Street.” Sam Walton leaned against his rusty truck, watching the parade balloons, and said, “Who needs to pay for helium? I have enough hot air to keep my balloons in the air as long as I want.”
Yes, the commercialization of Christmas is well refined and highly polished.
The first participants of that Christmas morning came looking for a sign. Ever since that day, signs have pointed the way. What better sign that Christmas is fully commercialized than to hear a televised defender of the faith castigate modern marketers for taking Christ out of the holiday season.
What? Did I hear him right? We want to hear more about Christ in advertising? No more do we hear calls to protect the sanctity of the Birth of Christ from the Sears Wishbook. There is no need to guard our modesty and order Victoria to keep her secrets to herself.
Now we know the quickest way to evangelize our society. Let Sam do it… and Best Buy, Target, and Cabellas. Now we say, “If you sell with an eye to rest it under our Christmas tree, keep your "Happy Holiday" wishes to yourself and plaster "Merry Christmas" across your front door.”
All through the years, I feared being bought, bullied and bamboozled into Christmas gifting and celebratory debting. Now I understand it all. The liberals were right.
Our whole capitalist society is a cleaver plot by the fundamental, premillennial, dispensational, evangelical right-of-center Christian church to take over every bit of fabric in our pluralistic society. The gaily decorated and present-laden Christmas Tree is the gateway we will use to rescue the lost and save a nation.
How wrong I have been. Not only did I not understand the vast evangelistic plan, I focused on the wrong event as the turning point of our world. All this time I thought the Christmas Tree was the blood-stained one in the center on Calvary.