PERHAPS just as a promo gimmick, one fast food outlet put out Christmas décor for the store last month, in July. It’s not certain whether this unexpected and playful approach increased the take-outs and dine-in sales levels. But it was worth a try, if only to lift the spirit with a wink.

Maybe spreading holiday cheer this early can be a worthwhile (even if fanciful) plan to lift the gloom and accelerate economic recovery after the second, but surely not the last, quarter of negative growth. Doesn’t Christmas shopping boost consumption for dining and consumer goods like jackets and hats? Should the malls start playing holiday music?

The calendar date of Dec. 25 does not anyway determine when Christmas is celebrated. It merely serves as a reference point for the inevitable countdown that stores and media use to build up excitement for the season and perk up consumption.

Can we now already skip to Christmas?

We still remember a time when Christmas started on the first day of the novena of dawn masses before Christmas, on Dec. 16, and unofficially ended on Jan. 6 for the feast of the Three Kings. Maybe because malls found the nine days constricting in terms of stoking depraved and wanton shopping, it was decided to move Christmas earlier and earlier by the simple expedient of putting up star lanterns, reindeers, and lights and piping in Ray Conniff and Mabuhay singers’ carols, even at the car park.

We already held the record for having the longest Christmas in the 1950s reckoned then from Dec. 16, the previously agreed upon start of Christmas, to Jan. 6 of Three Kings, which has since become a moveable feast celebrated on a Sunday and called by its more liturgically correct but unromantic tag of Epiphany.

With the erosion of this once clear dividing line in the calendar, keepers of records like Guinness or Ripley needed to look for another date in November, like after All Saint’s Day. Absent some common agreement on precise dates, guardians of world records may have just lost interest in the longest Christmas altogether.

Is an earlier celebration of Christmas, even before the already aggressive marking with the “ber” months, an economic recovery program worth looking at? Consumption after all is the driver of our GDP, accounting for 70% of this number. With the delay of the government spending on infrastructure (Build, Build, Build) now replaced, or complemented, by an equally alliterative mantra (Plant, Plant, Plant), can increased holiday spending offset high unemployment and the repatriation of the OFWs?

There is a need to rescue the word “positive” from its current implication of a death sentence. Testing positive, after all, consigns one to becoming a statistic in the contagion rate which is tracked daily. What happened to the non-medical meaning of “positive”? The association with hope, optimism, and, yes, the Christmas spirit needs to be restored.

In an experiment on emotional intelligence among children enticed with marshmallows (two right now or four after three hours), it is established that the virtue of deferred gratification for a greater goal is considered an ingredient for success. Has our all too ready and premature celebration of Christmas become a case of wanting our dessert before the obligatory tofu with bean sprouts? Is it too early to recycle last year’s haul of fruitcakes?

Must economic considerations of an earlier Christmas and its positive effect on sales take precedence over the distortion of the Gregorian calendar? Has the “countdown” to Christmas caused the season to lose its original meaning and become merely a promotion of consumerism?

True, there is an element of self-delusion in moving the calendar around, at least in spirit, to already jump-start economic confidence and recovery. Moving the countdown to Christmas a month earlier from the traditional hundred days can lift the spirit.

Anyway, how can you argue with the Christmas message of peace and goodwill to men being embraced much earlier than usual? Still, we haven’t heard such a call for unity and fellow feeling in a long while. Can this new-new normal for the Christmas spirit flip the now all-too-familiar “hoy, hoy, hoy” back to the more cheerful “ho, ho, ho”?

Still, even for Christmas, we don’t always get the gift that we want. It’s the spirit that counts. And it really needs a boost.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda