Saturday, November 17, 2007

'Tis the Season...for "Santastic"?

It's no longer a big surprise. What used to be regarded with great disgust and disdain is now blindly and blandly accepted as the norm, and it is simply this: the Christmas season begins earlier and earlier every year. No sooner are the spooky decorations of Halloween torn down than the festive ones go up. Hell, some retail outlets even seem to mark Labor Day as the beginning of "the Season". Screw Thanksgiving. They can't make any money on Thanksgiving, a holiday in which only Butterball comes out ahead. Retailers feel the need to keep their eyes on the prize, which this year is to rake in as much cash as possible before the looming recession sets in.

Our Christmas season reluctantly sputtered into life on Tuesday night. I was tired from a long day of digging in the dirt and mixing cement when Diane called me from work. "Hi...I umm...signed us up for something here at the mall tonight. I thought it was tomorrow night, but it's tonight. Can you get the girls ready and come in? We can do dinner here and then go." How did she know that that was exactly what I wanted to do after a long day of manual labor beautifying her back yard.

"What is it?" I sighed.

" I...don't...know exactly. I know it involves seeing Santa. It's some new thing that's supposedly sweeping the nation. Ours is only one of three malls in the country that has it."

I laughed. "Three malls is hardly 'sweeping the nation'."

"I know, but it sounds like it could be fun for the girls. Tonight is reserved for employees of the mall and they're giving everyone complimentary photos with Santa. So can you come?"

Did I have a choice? I felt like being a Scrooge, popping open a beer and lounging in front of the TV. But, in the interest of starting off the Holiday Season on the right foot, I conceded. I hobbled out to the family room to give the girls the news. "Hey girls, I'm going to get a quick shower, then we're going to get dressed and GO SEE SANTA!"

Kyra's response was classic. "Santa? It's not even Christmas yet! We haven't even had Thanksgiving!"

I think I startled her with my unexpected burst of laughter. She jumped but then smiled as I held my hand up for a big high-five. Amen, sister. That's my girl.

The prospect of seeing Santa quickly overshadowed any rational thought of Christmas being 45 days away, and we were soon out the door. We met Diane at her store, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then headed over to the Santa Claus experience that was sweeping the nation.

The village constructed in the mall's center court was called "Santastic". Inside the village was a series of stations or activities that basically kept families busy while waiting in line to get their picture taken with Santa. It's a pretty ingenious concept. In the first station, we were greeted by helpers with radio headsets who invited us to free cookies and milk. They also invited the girls to write a letter to Santa on the "Santastic" stationery.

The next station was a mailbox with a direct link to the North Pole where the girls took turns depositing their letters. As they opened the mailbox, they were met with a gust of wind and a cold blast of snow.

Next was the "Naughty or Nice" meter. Kids pushed the big red button and watched the needle flirt precariously with the "Naughty" side before settling on "Nice".

Obviously, any "Naughty" children didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of sitting on Santa's lap. Needless to say, I didn't get my picture taken with Santa. Oh well, maybe next year. I told Diane that I was a naughty boy in need of punishment, but she just rolled her eyes.

The girls finally made it to the Jolly Ol' Elf, though, with no problem. They took a nice picture and then hit him full on with their Christmas lists. We were then herded over to a computer station where a helper showed us a series of pictures taken at the various stations. This is where they make their money. We reviewed the pictures, but the only one we really wanted was one with Santa and the girls. The helper looked slightly disgusted as we told her we only wanted the complimentary photo. Hey, if they wanted us to buy more pictures, they shouldn't have allowed me to bring in my own camera. Live and learn.

So I've returned to Bah-Humbug mode for at least another week. I'll try to get back into the Christmas spirit after Thanksgiving. After all, I've got Christmas lights to hang.

1 comment:

WilyHacker said...

Around here, one of the local stations started playing Christmas music November 2. My rule has always been no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving (and Alice's Restaurant). My daughters (and my wife) don't necessarily have this rule, so every time I get in the van I welcomed to some Christmas music that I immediately change. My youngest delights in teasing me, intentionally pressing the Christmas button on the CD demo kiosk in the stores.

Don't get me wrong, I like Christmas music, but I don't want to be tired of it 2 weeks before Christmas.