Thursday, December 29, 2011

A More Focused Christmas

I wrote last week about my plan to give pies instead of factory-made presents for Christmas. I was not the only one cutting back on the excesses of Christmas this year. It seemed that people broadly were trying to make Christmas a more focused holiday this year.

  • There were at least 40 percent fewer Christmas lights in my local area. The mild fall weather and higher electric rates must be a factor, but are not enough by themselves to explain such a large decline.
  • Retail Christmas shopping traffic started late, only six days before Thanksgiving from what I could see, then fell off more than ever in the two or three weeks after Thansgiving weekend, picking up again just in the last five days before Christmas.
  • During the Christmas shopping season, many stores had no Christmas decorations at all on display. Others had cut back to decorations less than half the size of last year.
  • On Christmas Eve, the pope warned specifically about the commercialization of Christmas.
  • After Christmas, there was heavy retail traffic on December 26, but not much in the days since.
  • After Christmas, Sears and Kmart wasted no time in announcing a new round of store closings.
  • Stores wasted no time moving out Christmas-specific merchandise. I personally bought some Christmas items that had been marked down by about half on December 24 and again on December 27. In other stores that I visited in the days after Christmas, stores that in years past would have spent weeks clearing out excess Christmas items, there was no sign of any Christmas items remaining.
  • In a survey, about two thirds of U.S. workers were not taking any days off this week other than the holidays scheduled by their employers. I did not take any days off myself.

I saw no sign on Christmas Eve and Christmas that people were taking the holiday itself any less seriously. But people seemed determined not to let Christmas spill over across the entire month of December. The result was a more focused and arguably a more meaningful holiday.