Friday, December 4, 2009

Proposed: The Holiday Unification Plan

The annual war with the wallet and the waistline is underway — you know, the one we battle with from Halloween to the merciful end of the year. Tired of standing in grocery line after line, week after week? Weary of the water-torture insistence of forced goodwill, week after week after week? Have you had enough?

A humble proposal: by common consent, we agree to merge all the year-end holiday observances into one. Rather than suffer the serial indignities of the costumed candied madness of Halloween, the baroque culinary engorgements of Thanksgiving, the ruthless merchandising of Christmas and the inebriate  excesses of New Year’s Eve … a holiday unification plan. One week within the same month, collectively decided.

Look at this practically. Such a plan could mean less impact on the environment; without the current prolonged holiday season, shoppers would concentrate their holiday purchasing in a tighter time frame, meaning fewer cars crowding the highways between Thanksgiving and the week after Christmas (when the gift returns inevitably begin).

For travelers: Since the current holiday season for travel runs from just before Thanksgiving until just after Christmas, airlines and common carriers like Amtrak face crushing increases in travelers for at least a month. Replacing that with a more sharply defined period on the calendar means that long period of increased demand on services is replaced with a shorter one. The same impact those carriers now experience dragged out over a month is focused on a single week — much easier for airport general managers and Amtrak schedulers to negotiate.

For retailers, the uncertainty of a protracted holiday shopping season would be replaced with a tighter time frame for seasonal purchases — more in-store and online sales in less time, and a faster and more immediate shot in the arm for those year-end balance sheets.

Rather than scattering closures over the weeks between late October and the end of December, other businesses would have one week to close at one set time in the season; the additional days of operation for those businesses, fully staffed more of the time, would mean enhanced revenues for the last months of the year.

Such a plan clears the decks for more attention to be paid to seasonal holidays the majority culture otherwise ignores, like Hanukkah, Eid-al-Adha and Muharram.

And that’s to say nothing of the wear and tear on the mind that builds up this time of year. The prolonged holiday season takes perhaps its biggest toll on the psyche, plays on our sense of well-being and satisfaction. A shorter, more concentrated holiday season would make that emotional burden more bearable (or at least more chronologically definable).

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The biggest challenge to making this happen might be the cultural resistance, but in many ways our society is moving in that direction already. We’ve long been accustomed to the combinational experience.

In various commercial aspects of the culture from candy (“Certs: It’s two, two, two mints in one!”) to household products (“detergent and fabric softener in one”), from prescription medications (combination therapy is commonly used to treat depression, diabetes, HIV and hypertension) to over-the-counter drugs (aspirin or multivitamins twinned with cholesterol-fighting phytosterols) to automobiles (witness the rise of the hybrid vehicle), this is something our culture’s been getting its head around for a long time.

A holiday unification plan is the next step to where we’re going already.

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There might be a few complications. What could we call it? Bacchanal Time? Days of Jubilee? The Great Throwdown? We’re a pluralistic society, we’ll come up with something.

Get online. Send e-mails to your friends and your representative. Let’s get behind this thing, for the greater good. One holiday period, indivisible, with liberty and justice.

In one.

Image credits: Holiday shoppers: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster. Eid stamp: Via Bayer aspirin: Via

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