Is Christmas ruined?

I overheard in a break room that “Working retail has ruined Christmas…” for the woman who said this. And that got me thinking. Is commercialism ruining Christmas?

Radio stations start playing Christmas music in November, or maybe even October. Do they do it to get the spirit going? No, they do it to catch radio listeners, and thus sell more ads.

Television, stores, nonprofits, and other businesses use Christmas to bring in or make more money. But what does that do to Christmas? Many of our cherished Christmas traditions were marketing campaigns during the holidays, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Montgomery Ward Department Store) and Santa’s Red Suit (Designed by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, but which was popularized by Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaign).

Even Dicken’s A Christmas Carol created some traditions we still use today.

To answer the question of a ruining of Christmas, it must be understood what Christmas is. And that answer is so many things to different people.

So celebrate Christmas your way, and find moments to enjoy the season. It comes just once each year…

The awards show

I caught a bit of the Emmys on Sunday night. It’s been DVRed, but finding time to watch it this week will be tough. Easier instead to read the rundowns posted yesterday, either from NYTimes or Vulture, or from Twitter feeds and other social postings.

Two years ago, roughly at this time – following the Emmys, I posted on awards shows. It’s funny to think that again the Emmys prompts a post. After rereading my post from two years ago, I’m happy to say I’ve made some forays back into the entertainment business. Small steps.

But the awards show is an interesting animal. We’re watching the congratulations of people who likely enter our home at some point during the year, when otherwise we’d be watching the shows which they are on. The ratings were a record-low on Sunday, which may have something to do with the abundance of that other that we could be watching. We also are much more involved during the year with celebrity gossip thanks to social media.

So is there a place in the cultural consciousness for award shows? Should they even be televised? I’m sure that the question will continue being thought about among television executives trying to decide how best to sell to advertisers.

Call me nostalgic

We’re reducing the tactile sensations of our world to nothing more than keyboard and screen interactions. Consider:

Music early on was heavy; weighty. You picked up the albums and loaded them into gramophones, into record players. You lowered a needle. You would wipe the needle down, and the record off, lest you get the bumps and whine of interference. Perhaps you could listen for thirty minutes, then it was either flip to the B side, or repeat Side A. Then came the cassette, with it’s unique little flip-case. Crack, pop. Crack, pop. Unique sounds and feelings of taking a tape out, inserting it into a tape deck. 

CDs digitized the whole system, and suddenly sound quality changed drastically. Still, you had these CD cases, or maybe you put them in sleeves. You could bring a whole disocragphy with you, if you were so inclined. And then it went further digital with the advent of the digital music player, and multiple discographies were available in something the size of a cassette. 

Similarly books, whose only transitions have been to audio, and then to digital. It seems a bit harder to invent new ways to read rather than listen to music. 

Video also is all stored on the web now, and is available to watch or download at the click of the button. What started as the tactile sensation of adjusting rabbit ear antennae so that the signal would come in clear, then became inserting beta or VHS; laser disc; DVD; HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Now streaming. 

I think that’s why there’s a return to older sensibilities. Record players becoming en vogue again. Letter writing and stationary. Long has it been said that digital books would kill the print copy, yet even booksellers seem to be feeling the resurgence. We are beings that like touching things, and when too much exists in cyberspace, we just don’t know what to do with our idle hands.