Sing with me, people! It's not looking at all a bit like Christmas Anywhere we go! It's not even Halloween Yet Bryant Park is smelling green Build a market, sell some stuff and make some dough!
That's not just a song parody — it's actually happening right now in Bryant Park, where workers are putting the finishing touches on this year's Bank of America "Winter Village," where more than 125 vendors will sell Christmas presents from Oct. 29 until Jan. 2.
That's THIS Saturday, folks! The kids haven't begged for their Halloween candy, the Cubs haven't even had a chance to blow the World Series, and my mother (who packs for a weekend getaway two months ahead) hasn't planned her Thanksgiving dinner yet. But Bryant Park is about to start selling Christmas presents.
Even the people selling Christmas presents in Bryant Park think it's too early!
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"Of course it's too early," said Jamie Shapiro, whose shop Monkey Business will sell Christmas ornament stands at three markets this season, including Union Square, where the annual retail bacchanal doesn't start until Nov. 17.
"It should be just before Thanksgiving," added Shapiro. "People aren't thinking about Christmas yet. And it's tough on the vendors because we need to pay staff and pay for parking for so many more days."
Shapiro was feeling a little blue, so I asked her to join me in another of my favorite Christmas songs:
I'll be home for Christmas But give me eight more weeks There's still no snow or mistletoe Fall leaves still at their peak
What is it like to eat all the pumpkin food at Trader Joe's?
America's "permanent Christmas" isn't limited to Bryant Park's premature yulefication, of course. On Sept. 1 — that's four days before Labor Day, people — Walmart started the 115 shopping days until Xmas countdown by posting a toy "wish list" on its website Fortune picked up on the story the same day, but revealed the real reason Walmart is hyping Christmas when most Americans haven't even put away their swimsuits.
"Walmart has always been aggressive about (Christmas) to fight Toys 'R Us, Target, and Amazon.com for customers in the busiest shopping period of the year," Fortune reported.
In other words, sell it and they will buy.
Which reminded me of a song:
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Well, the weather outside ain't frightful Who needs a fire when it's so delightful Still it's no time to take it slow Make some dough, make some dough, make some dough
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Again, that verse is not just some writerly conceit, but fact: the International Council for Shopping Centers, a trade group, revealed on Oct. 4 that there's a link between green on the trees and green in retailers' wallets. More and more shops are turning their attention to early Christmas sales this year, and, sure enough, the trade group is "predicting a 3.3% growth in retail sales at physical stores this holiday season," up from last year's 2.2% increase in 2015.
Still, can't we just hold off on thinking about Christmas until — oh, I don't know — people have gotten a Christmas song stuck in their head? Even Macy's — which has a vested interest in making sure you shop until you drop — symbolically starts the holiday season by ending its Thanksgiving parade with a hearty "Ho, ho, ho!" from Santa Claus.
Another study, conducted in September, revealed that 73% of Americans hate how early the holiday season starts. The survey, by CreditCards.com, added that the majority of Americans (52%) want the Christmas season to start "around Thanksgiving," while another 12% want it to start about two weeks before Christmas. That's 64% favoring a traditional holiday tradition.
That said, 14% of Americans admitted they started this year's Christmas shopping in mid-September — three months before Dec. 25!
That's not how Susan Cirullo does it. I ran into her in Bryant Park on Thursday and she couldn't believe all the commotion at the marketplace.
"I only do one holiday at a time, so when I get through Halloween, I'll think about Thanksgiving, and when I get through Thanksgiving, I'll think about Christmas," she said. "But I only think about presents on Dec. 20 — if I'm organized."
Walmart, of course, is not even the first to ring the Christmas bell (that's a thing, right, or am I making a portmanteau of "Christmas dinner" and "dinner bell"?). Hobby Lobby, the famously Christian crafts chain, told CreditCard.com that it starts looking ahead to Dec. 25 on June 1.
The store "has two seasons: spring and Christmas," said spokesman Bob Miller.
Which made me think about that classic Christmas song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town":
You're not looking out You're still saying why Your datebook's in doubt Bryant Park must be high Santa Claus ain't coming to town
Sure he'll start with his list The "Naughty" and "Nice" But he won't begin now — I'm still eating pumpkin spice! Santa Claus ain't coming to town.
CHORUS: He's doing old bookkeeping Not baking a fruitcake He needs a tiny bit more time So apply those Yuletide brakes!
But maybe I was being a little unfair. After all, as Jamie Shapiro reminded me, small business people need all the help they can get. So why begrudge them a few extra weekends of sales?
"You know, there are Scrooges everywhere, but I think people just complain about the 'early Christmas' for the sake of complaining about it," said Julie Feltman, who runs the Bryant Park, Union Square, Columbus Circle and other markets for Urbanspace NYC. "But there are so many great things about this. The market supports 350 small businesses and craftsmen who are doing great work and hiring staff. And most of the work is local. So if you want to bash anyone, bash the big box retailers."
Wait a second. Feltman made me consider something I didn't even realize: Maybe I was the Grinch, the curmudgeon trying to steal Christmas. But talking to her made my heart grow three sizes. I can embrace the Christmas season, I really can!
Which, of course, reminded me of a Christmas song!
Hot dogs roasting on a greasy grill Autumn still warm and aglow. It's never too soon for some Christmas goodwill. Or to buy that new chapeau.
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