Holdgruen: Christmas in November: How capitalism controls our holiday spirit

Something interesting happened Sunday Nov. 1—everyone started talking about Christmas.Despite the Christian holiday being almost two months away, many college students and businesses are already preparing us all for the seasonal mindset.

Students are listening to Christmas music, stores are full of Christmas decorations and Starbucks brought back its seasonal red cups.

When we think of the commodification of holidays, we usually think of Valentine’s Day’s materialistic and exploited version of “love” as the “Hallmark holiday.” The end-of-the-year holiday stretch from Halloween to New Year’s Day, however, is probably the most capitalized and commoditized time of the year.

This commodification is best seen through the slight erasure of Thanksgiving. Although it arrives sooner than Christmas, businesses would rather advertise for the latter holiday early rather than spend too much time and money on the former. Under capitalism, holidays are a business—and Thanksgiving turkey does not yield as much profit as Santa Claus does.

Thanksgiving lacks the important capitalist aspects that Christmas offers businesses. Most people do not decorate their houses for Thanksgiving and gift-giving is not a central theme of the holiday. While businesses can capitalize on all the food needed for Thanksgiving, random oddities and products that people buy for Christmas are not a part of Thanksgiving. It seems that Christmas overtakes Thanksgiving more and more each year.

One of the biggest events related to Thanksgiving—Black Friday—is meant as an marketing strategy for buying Christmas presents. It also directly interferes with Thanksgiving itself. Many businesses and corporations such as Macy’s force employees to start work at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Kmart even opens at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day for 42 straight hours of Christmas shopping. Some corporations such as Home Depot and Marshall’s are closing their doors for Thanksgiving to respect the holiday, but Black Friday is still infamous for businesses’ mistreatment of retail employees.

This hyper-commodification of Christmas is bad for minimum-wage workers and for our appreciation of the holiday as a whole. Workers are expected to work overtime and to prioritize work over spending time with family. New employees are often temporarily hired for the few crucial weeks of the holiday season and are then left without jobs.

While Black Friday shopping can be helpful and important for poorer families to buy Christmas presents while on sale, we should be critical of businesses encouraging consumers to stand in line overnight in freezing temperatures in order to access these deals. Not much compassion is felt for the workers and consumers who are affected by the hyper-capitalistic Christmas spirit.

Additionally, consumers are bombarded with seemingly endless advertisements for Christmas movies and festivities. Personally, I am done with hearing about Christmas already and it’s only November. When we start preparing for Christmas the day after Halloween, we’re eventually going to get burnt out.

We shouldn’t force early autumn to be the winter wonderland we associate with Christmastime. The reason we prepare for Christmas so early is because businesses, corporations and our capitalist economy want us to.

It is fine to be excited for the holiday early, but we must question and criticize the subconscious effects of media and advertising that may make us start prepping for Christmas in November.