The Winter Solstice, the midyear holidays, the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus, Hanukkah,Festivus, Kwanzaa, or whatever one believes in, seems to begin earlier each year. This year, however, in response to the upcoming anticipation of higher heating costs caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Wise Men of Commerce have decreed an extra-early start, primarily to encourage consumers to spend their lucre on Xmas gifts now rather than something as frivolous as say, utility bills later when the house starts getting cold. Chaos ran into the Xmas spirit yesterday entering the local grocery. A fully-costumed Santa, squatting strategically 20 feet inside the main entrance, bizarrely wished Chaos a "merry Christmas." Various local merchants have had seasonal merchandise displayed for at least the past three weeks (yes, that's before Halloween), and word of the "black Friday" discounts at SprawlMart has leaked out early.
Chaos wishes to make the following observations concerning the "holiday" season: one can now reasonably conclude that any spiritual component of said holiday has been gradually and finally leached out by the relentless grinding of the American retail machine. The demands of the market now dictate how Americans spend their holidays. At best, the rituals have become so degraded by gross materialism that they now resemble a caricature of the original themes and practices. The bestowing of gifts now substitutes for authentic sentiment and is best exemplified by that most modern of gift shortcuts, the gift card, a bonanza for retailers and a boon for time-pressed or careless shoppers. In contrast to the original feasting and merrymaking, many people undertake tasks so numerous that the holiday "break" is in fact more stressful than the normal routine. Overindulgence in food and alcohol, depression and even suicide are typical responses to the dysfunctional anomie of the season. Travel on the holidays is ill-advised, because of huge lines at the airport and price-gouging, but going into debt to "pay" for Christmas is common and expected. The holidays have morphed into such a gargantuan commercial fiesta that retailers now expect that up to 40% of sales and most of the profits for the entire year will be reaped during this three month period. Given the context, Chaos has no doubt that the insensible American public will go along with this "marketing strategy," much like the drooling Pavlovian canines. It may, however, be quite a chilly January when the bills come due.