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I remember...

2003-11-05 - 8:00 a.m.

... I remember when the stores had the decency to wait until after November 11th to start with their Christmas hoopla.

The above is paraphrased from something I read a few years ago and Iíd give the credit if I could remember where I read it. It is no less true this year and sadly, Iím sure will be no less true next year. In fact, the week before Halloween I saw the first of the Christmas displays up at the Bay so it seems to be starting even earlier than last year.

I like Christmas as much as the next person but what Iím not as fond of is the extreme commercialization of Christmas and what truly pisses me off is stores that canít wait to start pushing Christmas down our throats until after Remembrance Day. Itís eleven extra days people, how much could it cost you to wait? The public will have no fewer Christmas presents to buy as a whole after November 11th.

Iíve noticed in recent years that there have been attempts to prompt us here in the nationís capital to think about war and its repercussions all year round. The new highway linking Ottawa to the main east-west corridor for southern Ontario was named the Veterans Memorial Highway, and right now thereís a brand spanking new War Museum under construction. I have the sinking suspicion that itís at least partly because the number of veterans of the World Wars is dwindling. Fewer and fewer are around to make it to the services honouring them and their fallen comrades. Once we no longer have this visible reminder, nor access to first-hand accounts of the horrors and atrocities of the World Wars, weíll need other types of reminders.

Of course the wars that are waged today are still bloody and horrible, but the effect on the average North American psyche just doesnít seem to be as strong. We havenít gotten to the point of drafting soldiers, or selling war bonds, or planting victory gardens and thereís no vast cultural change such as women suddenly taking over the workforce that was so obvious during the World Wars; the wars now are far away and average people here just donít feel the touch of them.

A few years ago the veterans were dispersing after services for the Unknown Soldier and I saw a young punk-ass kid in a mohawk (and, ironically, army pants) yell, ďFuck war!Ē at a white-haired veteran in his uniform, sporting medals on his chest. I have always regretted not saying anything. I wish I had said something like ďThat man risked his life for you. He fought with men that died for your right to be a jackass, so show some RESPECT. Being against war doesnít mean being against soldiers.Ē but I hesitated (what if he turned on me? what if I caused a scene? should I mind my own business?) and the moment was lost.

Despite the fact that Iíve heard a number of people complain about the Christmas promotion starting too early, despite the fact that many people say theyíd support bylaws blocking stores from starting their Christmas hype before a set date, lack of true public outrage is what lets stores get away with hyping Christmas so early. People vote with their dollars and their actions and obviously there are enough sales pre-November 11th to tell stores that itís worth hopping onboard the Christmas sleigh as fast as they can.

This year I am consciously refusing to be a part of it. I will not buy Christmas cards, decorations, etc. until after Remembrance Day. This year I am not going to treat November 11th as just another day off work and I will go to the memorial services on Parliament Hill that morning to pay my respects.

Think about it and make your own choices.

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