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You can’t judge the season by store decor

It doesn’t seem so long ago that, besides looking at the calendar, I could tell the time of year just by walking through a store and seeing the monthly displays. They appeared prior to the holiday by just a few weeks.
How times have changed! Now the items for that next special buying day are set out weeks and/or months ahead.
The weeks leading into Halloween had three holidays vying for my attention and dollars all at once. The stores hope that the, “As long as I’m here…” mentality will kick in and I’ll buy for the other two holidays too. Well, I used to do that. Now, I buy what I absolutely need and don’t look so far into the future. Besides, it slows the year down a bit so I can maybe enjoy the moment at hand.
If you go through the calendar, it’s clear when the holidays actually occur, but stores don’t follow that at all. They have to calculate what they need and when to display it, but does it have to go on forever? Does it have to begin even earlier? By the time the holiday or event arrives, I’m pretty fed up with it, and ready to have it over.
Take last week. I knew it was Election Day (not just from the excruciating media marathon of radio/television and newspaper ads), and loved the rows of inspiring American flags lining both sides of the main street in Odessa and around the courthouse in Richmond. Wasn’t it a great sight to see so many people lined up to go into the courthouse to vote?
If you go by when the store puts out its merchandise, the calendar looks different. Summer must begin in February when the new swimsuits come out. Cards, candy and items for Valentine’s Day are available in January, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter are in February, and Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are in April.
Father’s Day follows a bit more slowly, but the Fourth of July lasts from the month of June to several weeks after the fourth. School just barely got out in May, but you’d think their return was immediate with the onset of school clothes and supplies in June.
Alongside the black cats, witches hats, black and orange candy and décor of Halloween that appeared in mid-Sept., were the beautiful fall colors, turkeys and cornucopias associated with Thanksgiving.
Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas are like runners lined up in a sprint, always finishing in the same order. One would think that Christmas would get a bit discouraged always coming in ‘last,’ but is that really true anymore? Don’t forget, we often have ‘Christmas in July,’ according to the individual stores that want people to shop even earlier.
January is the time of clearance for anything dealing with Christmas décor, clothing, candy and the calendar’s re-dating starts all over again – but earlier than the previous year.
The stores hope people will shop earlier, and come back many times of course. Customers feel they’re getting the newest stuff and the ‘best’ ones before it’s all ‘picked over.’ As the holiday draws nearer, the prices tend to come down and sales usually appear.
I am not a shopper and generally avoid it if I can. I just don’t have the time or money to spend doing it. My theory is: I want to know what I’m getting, where the best selection is for the best price, then walk in, get it – and LEAVE! Unfortunately, there are some flaws with this. It’s hard to have that info without having been in the stores enough to know if the deal is good. That requires going and strolling, or comparing store ads.
What it doesn’t require is the actual spending, so it’s beneficial that I can go into a store, look around and come out with nothing. That happens most often if I’m there without my family. (Things jump into the cart and go with us more when they’re along!)
The moral of the story? Well, first of all, shop alone or at least without your family. (Sounds cruel, huh? You can take them on non-spending excursions to look and dream though.)
2. Don’t go to any store while you’re hungry. (You’ll stop and get something to eat, or buy more if you’re at the grocery store.)
3. ALWAYS take a list and don’t justify buying something that isn’t on it – if you allow it once, you’ll do it several times.
4. Don’t let the stores tell you what time of year it is. Follow the calendar and your budget!
Slow things down by avoiding the stores altogether until you’re ready to go. Face, or ignore, whatever is on display – or go regularly and watch for deals, but don’t spend until you’re ready and actually see a good deal!
On the other hand, if you’re a greyhound when it comes to shopping and holidays, and have the money to do so – well, you’ve already left the gates and are about halfway around the track to Christmas, right?
Holidays shouldn’t involve excessive spending anyway. The important thing is to enjoy sacred, irreplaceable moments with your family, and friends too. Too often, we do all of our preparing at our own houses, then appear with the finished product, visit a short time, eat and leave.
Let’s make our holidays into ‘linger longers’ with family and friends. Spend quality time. Prepare some of the food together and include everyone. Play games. Visit with the grownups and the kids. Take lots of pictures, of the meal before you eat – with everyone at the table. Take photos of individual families, of siblings, and include the pets too. Make a scrapbook of the day, and bring it with you the next year. It’ll bring lots of smiles and memories flooding back!
One thing to focus on? The reason for the season. We observed Veterans Day yesterday. We show gratitude and are grateful for all our blessings as a result of their sacrifice, and observe this again during Thanksgiving. Put the holy’ back in ‘holiday’ as Christmas is on its way.
It really isn’t the calendar, or the stores, that make or break these special days. It’s not what we buy or how much we spend. It’s what’s inside us and how we carry the spirit of the holiday with us to share with others.

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