When does Christmas start?

Of course it is December 25, but when can the hoopla begin?

Back in 1991, I was volunteered to play Santa Claus at Northern Stores’ “Christmas in July Sale.” I think it had something to do with the fact that it was my idea to help turn all of that left over Christmas merchandise into cash to bump up our Balance To Buy.

Anyway, I walked in circles around the displays of garland and lights and trees while dutifully handing out candy canes. That suit was hot because, you know, it was July!

One mother saw right through my disguise as the Jolly Old Elf and demanded that I explain to her children why July was too early to get excited about Christmas.

Chastened, I crouched down to address the little tykes, one-on-one, at their level. I was only halfway through repeatedly flashing 10 white-gloved fingers, to help them count the number of sleeps to Christmas, when she took them by their little hands and stomped away.

Now, we all understand that retailers need a few weeks to get all of the merchandise set up for Christmas selling. Once the back-to-school shelves are empty, Halloween moves in and, as these are condensed down, Christmas merchandise slowly fills up those spaces.

Stores then have two weeks to completely renovate to show off their Christmas themes. That puts them just past Remembrance Day, November 11.

Six weeks for a Christmas rush? Yeah, that is about all any of us can take. November 12 is the unofficial beginning of the hap-hap-happiest time of the year … that is to say, it is the date that we stop declaring, “They’ve started Christmas already?” every time we enter a store.

On November 12, we hunch our shoulders over just a little more; we fix our eyes on nothing at all really; and we enter that state of mind that protects us from over-stimulation.

But we will not tolerate Christmas music yet. We know that music is a blatant attempt to get us into the mood. Those of us who are shopping in November don’t want to be in the mood. We just want to get ‘er done so that we can mail off these presents Outside.

So, how about Christmas music? Does December 1 work for everybody? Because, let’s face it, if the calendar says “December” it actually means “Christmas”.

Now, how about wishing others a “Merry Christmas” instead of “Hello” or “Good bye”?

Sorry, but I don’t have an opinion here because it is too tricky. If it comes from a store clerk, it comes across as self-serving regardless of how sincere they are. If it comes from a person answering a phone call, it seems forced.

How about December 10? I’m just throwing this out there … it is just shy of the two-week mark from Christmas, but it is easy to remember because that is the day the Nobel Prizes are awarded.

Besides, if we said “Merry Christmas” to people too soon, then by the time Christmas rolls around, it becomes too canned. It would start sounding like, “MerryChristmasDidyouseeHeroeslastnight?Doesn’tanybodystaydeadonthatshow?”

I feel most sorry for businesses that need to get people thinking about Christmas earlier than most.

If a travel agent wants customers to get away from it all for Christmas, they really need to get those cartoons of Santa lying on the beach out there in October.

But readers will see it and shudder. “Things will never be the same,” they will moan to themselves. At least they don’t see these advertisements in July.

Oh, yeah, about that … to the lady I met in the store while I was dressed as Santa: now that your children are in their 20s, can we laugh about this now?