Is Christmas coming earlier every year?

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Posted by on November 11, 2009 at 15:33:44:

CLARE MILLIKEN | The Capital Times

These days, it seems like the end of Halloween opens the floodgates of Christmas preparation. Grocery stores build Christmas displays of red cream Oreos and Reese's peanut butter trees, while gift shops and major chains adorn their shelves with garland and lights.

It used to be that Thanksgiving trumped post-Halloween décor, but Santa seems to have taken over by early November. So why does the Christmas cheer seem to come earlier each year?

The simple answer is: Many people welcome it. Madison radio station WOLX started playing Christmas music on Nov. 5. Until Dec. 25, the station will play only Christmas songs. A WOLX representative said the station plays the music almost two months before Christmas because "there's significant demand for it."

Local shops have also laid out their Christmas wares. Orange Tree Imports, the kitchen and housewares shop on Monroe Street, starts decorating and stocking Christmas merchandise right after Halloween.

"For us, the end of Halloween is it," said Joann Denissen, seasonal decorator for Orange Tree Imports. "We kept the Halloween stuff up for three days to put in on sale. Then we pack it up and start hauling out Christmas."

Orange Tree Imports is not alone in decorating early. Tellus Mater Inc. on State Street brought out its Christmas potholders, plates, serving dishes, ornaments and candles the first week of November. And these displays have been successful thus far.

"People are buying Christmas stuff already," says Tellus Mater Inc. sales associate Emi Reiner. "I think people are trying to find things early before they run out."

Some people may be trying to beat the bum rush of post-Thanksgiving shopping, but some simply love all things Christmas.

The day after Halloween, Madison resident Jenny Corbett and her roommates were already getting into the Christmas spirit.

"We were listening to Christmas music while playing Christmas Sporcle while watching 'Elf,'" Corbett says. "One activity got us in the mood for the next one...and Elf is OK all year round."

Corbett and her roommates have already put up Christmas lights, and they plan to have cookie parties and gingerbread house-making nights. While others in her apartment criticize this early Christmas prep, she's happy to celebrate early.

"Christmas is just the best time of year," Corbett says. "Everyone's happy and nicer to each other. Everyone's very spirited. So if you could extend that for longer, why not?"

Like Corbett, Orange Tree Imports began its Christmas season in the first week of November. Denissen, however, started preparing the store for the holiday in early October.

"We work on the layout, figuring out where things are going to go," Denissen says. "We pull out trees, make sure they're decent. We got a couple new fixtures, which were decorated in advance. We did custom floral work. We got new garlands for the walls, which I custom made."

Orange Tree Imports' display is a Christmas lover's paradise. A sea of ornaments, sorted by shininess, lines an entire wall of the two-storefront shop. Nutcrackers of various sizes stand atop the store's fireplace, and two decorated Christmas trees flank the entire display.

Denissen says a lot of consideration goes into the Christmas décor at Orange Tree Imports, and she believes customers value the store's presentation.

"The reception is positive," she said. "For the most part, people really like this holiday. We have people that collect things and can't wait to see this year's new ornaments."

Not everyone is up on early Christmas. Reiner says Tellus Mater, Inc won't start playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving because "it gets on our nerves after a while," and there are still others who wish Christmas preparation didn't come so early.

Tanner Gregory wishes radio stations like WOLX wouldn't play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. He also scorns Christmas decorations before December, saying, "They're completely skipping Thanksgiving."

"If they are having Christmas decorations up now I expect Valentine's decorations up before New Year's," Gregory says. "I want Fourth of July in March. If it's going to be up this early, they might as well never take down the Christmas decorations."

Still, for some stores, putting out Christmas decorations and gifts right after Halloween is just smart business.

"To get a store ready, it takes a long time," says Barbara Davenport, manager of Stone Fence in Hilldale Mall. "If you start (decorating) the day after Thanksgiving, you're already in the Christmas season. To start decorating and work with the volume of customers we have would be physically impossible."

Davenport says setting up early helps the store run smoothly and keeps customers satisfied.

"There's nothing worse than trying to help customers while you're climbing on a ladder doing displays. It's much better to give that customer full attention," she says.

Denissen echoes this sentiment, citing the need to sell the stock when demand for it is greatest.

"We have limited space, and only so many weeks to get (the Christmas stuff) out," she says.

While not everyone is in favor of Christmas decorations in November, there are plenty of those who will tune into WOLX or start their Christmas shopping before they stuff their turkeys. And as long as that's the case, businesses will follow suit. After all, it's never to early for Elf and red Oreos.

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