For shoppers' sake, a June Christmas
PORTLAND, ORE. — When I reached the main entrance at my local mall, the walkways were jammed with shoppers. A man wearing dark glasses and a trench coat veered into my path. As we collided, his briefcase dropped to the ground and popped open, scattering papers in all directions.
"I'm terribly sorry!" I exclaimed, reaching down to grab some of the wayward pages.
"Don't apologize," he said. "A busy shopping center is good. These people are exactly where they need to be. And best of all, a great adventure is just beginning."
It took several minutes to chase down his papers, many of which were covered with graphs and columns of numbers. The man tapped my shoulder and motioned toward a nearby bench. "I can see you're curious," he said. "Let's sit down."
"I'm more than curious," I said. "This looks like some kind of business plan to move Christmas to another season."
"It's still in the early stages," he said, "but you're right. A number of investors, advertisers, and economic analysts are working on the project. I'm part of the research team, talking with mall managers, suppliers, and retailers. The scenario we're aiming for is to move the celebration to sometime in late May or early June."
"And this decision is based on monetary issues?" I asked.
"I'd say logic is the main factor," the man said. "The Christmas shopping rush is a major cylinder in the engine of American commerce. Imagine how much more powerful it would become if we made a simple calendar adjustment so that weather conditions were more consumer-friendly? With no blizzards or icy roads to deal with, sales figures would go off the charts!"
"If business revenue is all that matters, why not just create an entirely new occasion for springtime shoppers?" I suggested.
"Too hard to build public awareness from scratch," he said. "Christmas is an established name. People trust it. And, truth be told, some elements of the existing scenario will have to be left in place because they're too ingrained in the season."
"I don't see Santa's sleigh and the reindeer in warm weather," I admitted.
"Actually," he said, "I was thinking about Harry and David and those towering fruit baskets. They can't alter the production cycle of the pear orchards, but it shouldn't be too hard to package their entire autumn harvest into the marketing campaign we're planning to promote New Year's Eve as the No. 1 winter party occasion. That's another great reason for shifting Christmas to spring - people will have months to rest up for Yuletide festivities."
"You and I obviously have totally different concepts about the spirit of this season and the role it should play in our daily lives," I concluded. "I'm happy with 'Peace on Earth.' Do you have a slogan that's better?"
"New and Improved," he said, snapping the briefcase shut. "And tell your friends at the North Pole to make sure the last one out the door turns off the lights."
• Jeffrey Shaffer writes about media, American culture, and personal history.