It seems that every year stores start putting out their Christmas displays earlier than the last. Like the onslaught of Baby-Boomer-classic-holiday-hits start drifting through the background of any trip to the mall before we've even had our Thanksgiving turkey. As the signs of the upcoming retail insanity start popping up, people start complaining, "It's not even December yet! What is happening?!"
I used to complain about it too. I still get it, people want and need time to enjoy the fall. Halloween and Thanksgiving have their own exciting elements that lots of people love, and when Christmas starts taking over "too early" it can distract from the enjoyment of those earlier holidays.
My experiences over the last six years have drastically changed my thoughts about this controversial trend. Since my first holiday season with my own business back in 2011, the months leading up to Christmas have taken on a whole new emotional meaning. I was definitely not prepared for my first Christmas as a business owner. The shear volume of orders increased to the point that some days I was shipping more orders in one day than I had in an entire summer month. Each Christmas season I ship as fast as I can, and do my best to remain grateful for the work. It's like riding a roller coaster, or running a race, or maybe both at the same time. Now I find myself putting up shipping deadlines in bold black ink on my calendar. I do everything in my power to make sure that all of the orders are shipped out and able to arrive before the Big Day.
As the years have passed I also notice that people who weeks before had complained about Christmas coming too early, began complaining about how long it took for their online orders to arrive. After experiencing the physical and emotional toll that holiday shipping took on me with my own little business, I have fresh sympathy for what other business go through, big and small.
The harsh reality is that time and space are real. While the Amazons and the Wal-Marts of the world want you to believe that a few clicks of a few buttons can give you what you want nearly effortlessly—it's just not true. There is a lot of effort that goes into it! I can only ship so many orders in a day, and even businesses far larger than mine all have their limits. The United States Postal Service can only process so many packages and letters in any given day, or hour, or minute. Those limits are tested every year with the pressure increasing the closer it gets to December 25th.
Whenever pressure increases, at some point something has to give. The way I see it, stores and online advertisers beginning the holiday push earlier is likely an effort to relieve some of the pressure that builds up later in the season. Just as there are only so many packages I can ship in a day, there are also only so many shelves that can be restocked, decorations hung, and transactions processed through a checkout in a store.
With all of this in mind, here is my plea: please be patient and be kind. The postal workers, UPS delivery folks, the people working in local stores, the artists selling things online, and so many other people that work somewhere in the retail system are all working ridiculously hard in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas. They all have their own families, their own shopping to get done, their own holiday parties to attend, and their own private lives with responsibilities. Be patient. Be kind. Consider supporting your local economy, or an independent maker when you're looking for gifts, and consider shopping early to help them even more. Because when it comes down to it, we're all just humans trying to make our way through this crazy world together.