Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It’s been looking a lot like Christmas actually.

It’s November 18 and two weeks ago I found myself humming along with Silver Bells as I shopped for a curtain rod. Most of the stores have had Christmas merchandise since Labor Day, and some even began putting it out while the temperatures and humidity were in the nineties.

I still have leftover Halloween candy but I’m bombarded with boxes and bags of Christmas treats. Printer paper is hidden behind gift wrap. My face cleanser has disappeared in a sea of red and green gift sets of bubble baths and scented lotions. The garden shop has hidden the potting soil to make room for tinsel and trim.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I especially love my granddaughter’s reaction to Christmas and I have an idea she’s really going to be into the whole Santa and gift thing this year. But Christmas doesn’t seem as special now as it did when I was a kid. I don’t know, but could it be that after 57 Christmases, it’s lost its glow? Or could I just be in a bad mood this year? Or maybe it’s because Christmas isn’t just a month-long season like it used to be. It seems to stretch for half a year now.

I know why merchants put out their Christmas wares so early. As a former retailer, I know that you have to compete. And Christmas is your make-it-or-break-it season. Most retailers strive to make enough profit between Black Friday and December 26 to keep them solvent til the following Christmas season.

And if you’ve ever wondered why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, it’s not because it’s the busiest shopping day in the year that puts stores in the black. Here’s the real story:

The Friday after Thanksgiving has become known in the last few decades as one of the busiest of the year for retailers, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. One of the names used for this day is Black Friday, which some say comes from the fact that it is the biggest shopping day of the year, putting stores firmly in the black. This is false, as the days closer to Christmas generate more in sales. For the true origins of the term, we have to dig back a few decades.

Laurence H. Black was one of the best floor men in town, working in the men’s department of the old Osberger’s Department Store for over thirty years. He had been with the store since its humble beginnings as a menswear store on Richmond Avenue in the late 1920s. Except for a very brief stint in the service during World War II, he remained with the store as it grew, eventually settling into its later eight-floor retail palace on North Geary Street. Black was a fixture in the store, presiding over the suits, shirts, ties and millinery in his ever-present black suit (”That’s how they remember me. Black suit, Mr. Black, see?”) with a red carnation in the lapel. In a very cutthroat industry, his was one of those rare cases in which he was respected by everyone in the city’s retail trade, regardless of store affiliation. His reputation was even cemented throughout the region, as Osberger’s expanded in the 1950s and Mr. Black would often be called upon to train sellers at the various stores.

But it was the downtown store he loved the most. He was typically one of the first there in the morning (just behind Wharton Osberger) and one of the last to leave, which is exactly as it was on November 27, 1964. Toward the end of his twelve-hour shift, as the massive brass clock overlooking the restaurant in the store’s Grande Center Court read 7:48 pm, Laurence H. Black collapsed, felled by a heart attack. Old man Osberger closed the store the next day and clerks at the city’s other retail palaces wore black in tribute.

The following year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, all of the employees wore black suits and dresses, highlighted by a single red carnation, with a moment of silence at 7:48 pm, a tradition that carried on year after year and was picked up by many other stores in the city. But, through many consolidations and sales and employee turnover and whatnot, the reason for the tribute and the tradition itself has been lost, save for a few old-timers who still remember. The small Osberger chain was dissolved in the early 1990s and the old parent company is now the owner of a chain of movie theaters in Australia. If you trace back through approximately fifteen mergers and acquisitions you’ll find that the old Osberger stores themselves are all now Macy’s. The central Osberger’s store on North Geary was converted to office space in 2001, after sitting vacant for a number of years. They’ve kept the central court and clock, however.

by RJ White from

Interesting, huh?

So, are you in the Christmas spirit already? Got your Christmas shopping done? Ready to behead a stuffed Santa before December’s even begun?

Just to keep this on a positive note, here’s a nice Christmas decoration I thought you’d enjoy.


Jane said...

I haven't gotten any shopping done, but I hope I won't be shopping until the last minute like I always do. I haven't found any real good sales yet. I might have to venture out to the stores on Black Friday.

Merri said...

As I live in the UK we don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but I really enjoyed Mr Black's story and the origins of Black Friday.

As for the Christmas shopping... since there are fewer young children in the family we've cut back on spending. These days we tend to buy toys for those young enough to feel deprived, token gifts for the adults and what we would normally spend on each other, we now donate to charity through our church. Christmas sorted :-)

We found we don't miss out on anything, we still have a traditional Christmas and we feel better for giving.

Stephanie said...

PM, I am with you that I love Christmas and all the hoopla that goes with it but I agree that having Christmas things spread out over months means that seems to dilute its emotional impact for me.

I like to get my shopping done fairly early but usually hold off about my decorating until after Thanksgiving. That is were I really seem to get the Christmas spirit going!

Smarty Pants said...

There needs to be a rule banning posts that make SP cry before 8AM.

I don't mind the Christmas creep because I love the season and always feel like it goes by too fast.

Angel said...

I don't really mind much either. Early Christmas items and sales mean I can get most of my shopping done early. I do occassionally go out on Black Friday if there is something in particular I want but not always.

I enjoy Christmas a lot and am more enthusiastic this year than last (when I didn't even put out half my decorations. We'll start decorating right after Thanksgiving, because I'll be having lots of people over during the holidays.

And thanks for the eye candy, BTW!


Instigator said...

This year I'm a little ahead of the game because at least I know mostly what I need to purchase...haven't done it yet but I will. Normally, I'm in line in the dark on Black Friday but not this year. While I might make a quick pit stop, we're heading to the Iron Bowl. It'll be my first Auburn game since I was a senior in high school, mumble, mumble years ago.


Problem Child said...

I am not ready at all to even start thinking about Christmas. This week is hellish for me right now, but I did give DG the head's up this morning that after I make it though this stuff this week, we'll have to start some Christmas planning.

I had a rule as a child/teenager: No Christmas until after my birthday (which is always right around Thanksgiving).

I claimed for a long time that I wanted to not dilute Christmas, but in reality I didn't want folks doing a combo Birthday-Christmas present. :-) (although I didn't mind when my birthday fell on Thanksgiving; lots of food to celebrate, and since the family was together, I'd get lots of presents).

The rule is rather moot now, as Christmas has become a bit more complicated. Just getting packages in the mail to the UK in time to arrive for Christmas means mailing them right after Thanksgiving!

Argh. Must shop soon!

PM's Mother said...

Bah! Humbug! I just cannot get into the spirit yet. Jack Frost doesn't nip at my nose where I live and palm trees don't look like Christmas trees -- but -- I have done a litle Christmas shopping. I do most of it online -- it saves wear and tear on my body and my car (and my pocketbook!)

PM: The eye candy is unique -- I've never seen one with a blue light on it before! ;-)

Playground Monitor said...

I've never seen one with a blue light on it before!

Ah... yes... that's our own blue light special. ;-)

gigi said...

I am not in the Christmas mood this year.

I was even thinking of not putting up the tree and sorta skipping it.
I have had so much sickness and surgeries and unexpected bills this year. Both girls are in college so lots of expenses.
It just seems like I was the one that enjoyed all the decorations and the tree. Now I can't get anyone to help and it seems they don't care.
I did decide today that I will put up a tree. I bought a slim tree this year. My big fluffy prelite tree was a big pain in the rear and took up so much space and an hour to put together. I am hoping the slim tree I got at Target today will fit the bill.
I am also cutting back on the gifts this year.

LeaannS said...

I want one of those under my tree. Oh, wait, my hubby might not like that. Darn! :)

Christine said...

I only know what i want for christmas ... my family will be amazed... usually i have nothing on the list...