Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Meanwhile, the Holiday-Industrial Complex Has Expanded to Fill the Entire Last Third of the Year’

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Whereas previously Thanksgiving was a kind of warm-up for Christmas, inaugurating the holiday season, we now have to contend with a new abomination: Halloween as a holiday for adults.

The regressive childishness that the adult Halloween encourages serves to reinforce the sentimentality surrounding Christmas, while the emphasis on “sexy” costumes reproduces one of the most oppressive aspects of Christmas, namely, the degree to which it totally and utterly sucks to be single during the holiday season. For most of the year, one has a normal reaction to a state of singleness — perhaps it’s a welcome break, perhaps it leaves one feeling lonely, etc. — but during the holiday season, one invariably feels like a failure. The sexualization of a childhood activity lays the groundwork for these feelings by reinforcing the link — which has always struck me as strange and creepy — between the childhood nostalgia of Christmas and the imperative of romance.

The inclusion of Halloween into the holiday season also brings the oppressive spectacle of New Year’s Eve more sharply into focus. Not only are we obligated to have fun on that night — ensuring that we won’t — but the hapless single person gets one last kick in the teeth, as they ring in the New Year with no one to kiss.

Building off Natalie Cecire’s piece on Scroogism and reproductive futurity that I linked yesterday, Adam Kotsko has some thoughts on the expansion of the Holiday-Industrial Complex:

One can already see efforts to bring Thanksgiving more fully within the orbit of the holiday-industrial complex. The creation of a new quasi-holiday known as “Black Friday” out of what was formerly known as “the day after Thanksgiving” certainly helps here, but even more insidious is the sense that the “thanks” we should be “giving” is owed to “the troops” — integrating nationalism more firmly into the celebrations. This element of nationalism is obviously also present in the summer “eating” holidays that otherwise share many of the desirable attributes I’ve pointed out in Thanksgiving, but the gesture toward the troops is often superficial. The advantage of eliciting such feelings on Thanksgiving is that it is folded into the totalitarian atmosphere of the holidays, where sentiments must be sincerely present or, at worst, their absence must be explicitly marked by replacement feelings of guilt.

One should probably expect troop-focused piety to increasingly characterize Thanksgiving in coming years, and it is likely that “Black Friday” shopping will also come to encroach more and more on Thanksgiving Day itself — I wouldn’t be surprised if we even learned that shopping is a great way to work off those Thanksgiving calories. Those of us seeking low-key holidays with simple and clear obligations will have to wait until summertime, when we can enjoy our grilled meats and fireworks without feeling guilty for not loving our family enough or not having found true love or not having enough fun.

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