Originally created 09/25/98

Christmas coming too early

To stay ahead, you must have your next idea waiting in the wings. -- Rosabeth Moss Kanter

You probably never heard of Haven Gillespie.

No reason why you should have, really. He was born 110 years ago into an impoverished northern Kentucky family and died -- with little notice -- in 1975.

But you are very familiar with one of his creations -- a song he wrote. It made its debut on Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1934 and has been with us ever since -- Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town.

I am reminded of Mr. Gillespie's work because four short months from this morning it will be a cold day in December and you (hopefully) will be celebrating it with your family and opening gifts.

You can't get started too early.

I don't mean to be too smug about it, but I've already got my wife's gift.

Every year I buy her a subscripton to her favorite magazine. It is, I think, overpriced, but it is one of the few things she ever asked for.

She also knows I got it because the other day she noticed the expiration date on the magazine mailing label had been pushed into the next millennium.

Things have changed.

I used to be a guy who loved the thrill of shopping on Christmas Eve. It was a challenge. It was a game.

It was hereditary.

My father was one of the last great Christmas Eve shoppers. My sisters and I had absolutely no idea what we might get.

My favorite was the year he got us furry, zippered bags that -- when you unzipped them and crammed in your pajamas -- plumped out to look like a stuffed animal. A squirrel, I think.

No more. Now, I'm an early shopper. Retailers love folks like me. If you shop early, there's always the chance that you might come back, forget you're finished, and see a better gift to buy before the holiday arrives.

I doubt it, but I acknowledge the possibility.

I've got my Christmas cards purchased, too. I bought plenty of boxes last December in those "after Christmas" sales. My card list is ready. I'm just waiting on the holiday stamps to hit the post office.

I don't have our tree, but again, we seem to get it plenty early.

For the past couple of years, we've gone out on Thanksgiving Day afternoon and picked one up.

We were never this early when I was a kid, and I still remember my childhood friends Max and Billy. In their family, Santa brought the tree on Christmas Eve along with the presents. They resorted to visiting my house during the holiday break because there was no tree at their house.

Now I can sit back in my living room in November and look at lights sparkling on a tree. It's a pretty sight. And if the trend continues, we might some day put up a Christmas tree the day after Halloween.

That's probably a little extreme, but who would have guessed a few decades ago that Christmas would be the holiday whose awareness got earlier and earlier every year?

You've only got four months left.

Hope you finish on time.


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