Christmas "spirit" spill on aisle four!

The marketing of Christmas is as amusing as it is disturbing. The disturbing part is obvious, to me anyway. It is amusing, because I am a people watcher.

There are shelves lined with products that have been invented and packaged exclusively for this marketing season. No one wanted one in September. No one needed one, ever. But people are frantic, even desperate, to get their hands on one in December! Sometimes they will stand in long lines to do so. An emerging trend is to purchase "gifts" for oneself. You have to admit that is brilliant marketing.

In the children's toy department alone, there are unimaginable varieties of toys that do all kinds of things as long as you feed them batteries. The overall marketing message is: Good parents/grandparents buy their kids lots of stuff. I guess I would be considered a delinquent dad for buying my kids books when they were little.

What makes it amusing is the way people respond to this marketing blitz. Many, I have no idea how many, fall for it. They purchase all kinds of things that would not stand up to rational scrutiny regarding value, life-expectancy, or ability to satisfy any need. These people can often be identified at the door of the store. I know that is stereotyping, and thus bad, but it's pretty obvious much of the time.

Others eschew the marketing racket and find alternate shops at which to purchase gifts for their loved ones. This group is the most amusing to watch when they are in a major retail establishment with a list from the Angel Tree or similar charity. The poorly-cloaked disdain etched on their faces is priceless. They are conflicted, torn between the yearning to bless some needy child with the desired toy, yet convicted that what is going into the basket is a bunch of useless junk. I have been in this club myself. But I digress.

While it seems the Christmas spirit is not actually available in stores, it certainly can be. It will never be for sale. It never has been. You and I have to take it in with us. If we think otherwise, we're looking at the store through the wrong window. Look through the window at the people, not the stuff, and you will see this Christmas in a whole different way.