MAD DOG: Giving Thanks
Like it or not, the Holiday Season is in full swing. The Holiday Season is defined as the group of year-end celebrations which includes Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, though it officially begins right after July 4th when the drug stores change the seasonal sale aisles from barbecue grills, lawn chairs, and mosquito repellent to Christmas tree ornaments, candy canes, and cassettes of Slim Whitman's Christmas Favorites Volume 17. You can't say they don't give you fair warning.Holidays are big business. Consider that this year we spent more than $2.5 billion on Halloween products. To put this in perspective, that's almost twice what Jim Carrey will get paid for his next movie but less than half the price of a good seat at the impeachment hearings, Clintonfest '98 - High Crimes and Low Blows. Or is that the other way around?Of the $2.5 billion spent on Halloween, $950 million went to buying candy, which left an awful lot for costumes, decorations, pumpkins, beer, Pepto Bismol, and ant exterminating after the little critters discovered where you hid the candy before the kids did. This consumer binge has made Halloween the second biggest for holiday spending, ahead of Easter and behind Christmas. Obviously the egg and rabbit industries just aren't trying. That's why come March we can expect to see magazine ads with the Easter Bunny wearing a yolk moustache asking, "Got eggs?"It doesn't take much to create a holiday anymore. Take Cinco de Mayo. A small Mexican commemoration of the 1862 defeat of French troops at the Battle of Puebla, it only took a little creativity on the part the Mexican beer companies to turn it into a full-blown and growing American festival. Cities all over the country now have block parties and street festivals celebrating Cinco de Mayo, most of them in towns where the nearest Mexican is a Chihuahua on a Taco Bell poster and the people filling the street drinking imported Mexican beer with limes while listening to American rock bands wouldn't know a burro from a burrito. Expect Congress to move this celebration to the first Friday in May starting next year so we can get another 3-day weekend.Luckily there are still a few relatively pure holidays left. Columbus Day is pretty clean. Except in some places, like San Francisco, where it's not even called Columbus Day anymore, but Italian Heritage Day. Face it, no onebut no onespends money on Columbus Day. Okay, maybe a cannoli here and there, but that probably adds up to $2,598.45 nationwide. Plus tax.Then there's Thanksgiving. Incredibly, this has remained pretty uncommercialized. Sure there are those goofy turkey decorations with the honeycomb crepe paper bodies. And the sappy TV specials that reap almost as much ad revenue as the Superbowl because advertisers want you to think that they're kicking off their Christmas ad campaign at Thanksgiving when you know for a fact they were airing the commercials during Memorial Day weekend.Interestingly, you don't see many Thanksgiving Day cards. It's possible that Hallmark and American Greeting are being selfless and trying to maintain a modicum of decorum, but it's probably more the fact that they haven't been able to come up with many ideas that don't play on the phrases "Don't be a turkey" and "Get stuffed".So somehow Thanksgiving is relatively intact, still being celebrated by eating until a plunger won't get more food down, snoring in front of the TV while telling ourselves that breathing is aerobic exercise, pretending we like everyone in our familyfor at least the first half hour, and trying not to think about what mincemeat is while we shovel it down because, well, it's Thanksgiving and you're required by law to eat everything that's set out on the table.Oh yeah. We also take a moment to give thanks. Thanks that we're people, and not turkeys. Thanks that we remembered to wear a large shirt so we could pull it out to hide the fact that we unbuttoned our pants after we ate that turkey sandwich an hour after dinner. Thanks that we're not at war this holiday season, except perhaps with those geeks at the help desk of the software company who keep us on hold for 45 minutes at our expense and then tell us to reinstall the program while sacrificing a chicken during the full moon.We give thanks that they've released the video of MI:2 because it's much more comfortable to fall asleep on your own couch than it is in the movies. Thanks that Election Day is over, meaning politicians can move on to more useful work, like kicking off the 2004 presidential campaign. Thanks that there are only seven days a week so we can't possibly see Dateline more often than that. And thanks that Entertainment Weekly named Oprah as the most influential person in Hollywood because we were getting worried that it was actually Jerry Springer.Remember all this when you're looking through the newspaper and realizing that there are five times as many pages of Christmas advertising than there are news. And give thanks that you're smart enough not to wake up at 6:00 am the day after Thanksgiving to hit the malls with everyone else. Of course that's probably just because you're busy planning next year's Cinco de Mayo party.