Thursday, October 25, 2007

Christmas in October

This story also discusses the root causes of Halloween, stuffed penguins, various types of snowmen and green table grapes.

It all began nearly 2 weeks ago when I walked into my local Vons supermarket and was confronted by this small choir of snowmen.

marketing Christmas in October Snowman Choir (c)David Ocker
Seeing this full-frontal Christmas marketing before I had yet come to terms with Halloween silliness was disconcerting. I'm glad there was no Christmas carol playing. Hearing "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas" at that same moment would undoubtedly have given me a seizure.

But it IS beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In spite of the two major national holidays we will yet celebrate before Christmas, corporate America seems to be doing everything it can, as early as it can, to ensure a good bottom line at the bottom of its stocking. (Here's an article.)

And, of course, when big business prospers everyone benefits. Uh-huh. Higher corporate profits mean working people get bigger bonuses and longer vacations. More taxes are paid so welfare checks increase and more guns are shipped to Iraq (which eventually are stolen by terrorists so replacements can be ordered from defense contractors.)

As an article of faith, retailers believe that next year's Christmas season will be the most profitable ever. So they increase orders for shoddy Chinese merchandise and sweat shop workers in lead-paint factories can buy motor scooters and raise the demand for gasoline worldwide.

Christmas marketing makes it just one big win-win world.

Halloween Decoration - Pumpkin Snowman (c)David Ocker
Meanwhile I've been trying to suss out why Halloween has become such a huge adult holiday in recent years. Some of the solutions I've suggested to myself are:
  • Adults really truly DO believe in witches and goblins and ghosts.
  • Adults really don't believe in witches and goblins and ghosts but their irrational fears are alleviated by giving candy to children.
  • Adults are jealous of their children getting all the goodies.
  • Adults need a chance to get drunk and/or act silly.
  • Adults need one (more) night a year to believe in pre-Christian paganism
  • Adults are not happy with their own personalities and need a chance to pretend to be someone else.
  • Halloween is one big practice party for Christmas and New Years - minus gifts and you spend it with friends instead of family.
  • Adults are just being manipulated by retailers to waste money on Halloween junk.

Halloween Decoration - Inflatable Pumpkin Snowman (c)David Ocker
I think the last one is the most realistic. Halloween really IS Christmas in October if you're a retailer - another chance to separate us suckers from our money over a Pagan-inspired holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending in the U.S. will top Five Billion Dollars this year. (Click here.)

Please notice the two Pumpkin Snowmen in the pictures; both are denizens of front lawns in our immediate neighborhood. Next year will we be seeing Halloween polar bears and reindeer as well? Or maybe ghosts of polar bears and skeletons of reindeer? I hope so.

Stuffed Christmas Penguin 1 - (c)David Ocker
Meanwhile, Mixed Meters' favorite crypto-zoological beast - the Christmas Penguin was out in full force in a Southern California drug store recently. I found three different soft cuddly Christmas penguin toys.

Stuffed Christmas Penguin 2 - (c)David Ocker
Here is a previous MM post Stalking The Christmas Penguin explaining why I'm so amazed by Christmas penguins.

Here is a positive-spin article about the Polar Bears Meet Penguins Coca-Cola Commercial which I discuss in that posting.

Here you can watch that very commercial online.

Here you can read about a musical for kids entitled How The Penguins Saved Christmas. The penguin has a great future as a Christmas animal when those kids grow up. Be sure to listen to some musical samples at the bottom of the page.

Stuffed Christmas Penguin 3 - (c)David Ocker
There's more to my story about the Vons supermarket.

After I controlled my surprise at the snowmen I shopped and purchased food. One thing in my basket was a 2 pound plastic box of green table grapes. The price was very reasonable. Here's the label on the box. Click it for enlargement.

label for Frankenfood grapes from Vons
When I got home I read the label more closely. Notice the line "UNITED STATES PLANT PATENT NO:PP17504". The grapes were uniformly large. They lasted a long time without spoiling. They had an intensely crispy crunchy consistency. They were ever so slightly, just barely a little tiny bit sweet - sorta, if you used your imagination. I hated 'em!!

"Yeah, so?" I hear you say ...

What better way to celebrate Halloween than by eating FRANKENFOOD.

The organic grapes I bought more recently from Whole Foods were completely delicious.

Here's the full text of the franken-grape label:


Green Seedless Table Grapes
Raisins Verts De Table Sans Pepins

Product of U.S. / Produit des E.-U.
Net Wt. 2 lbs. (907 G) / Poid Net 2 lbs. (907 g)

Distributed By/ Distribue Par:
Sun Fresh International
Visalia CA 93291-5143

Grown and Developed by
Anton Caratan and Son

Treated with sulfer dioxide for fungicde use / Traites ave dioxyde de soufre comme fungicide.

Here's an article about these grapes which indicates they probably aren't genetically modified. Even so they are clearly an engineered product, created more for the producers benefit than for the consumers. Here are two descriptions of the little beasties from the article:

large, crispy grapes that have characteristics retailers covet, including long shelf life.

the taste profile -- starting with a sweet vanilla streak and ending with a zesty Granny Smith apple finish -- is unique.

.Franken-Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1 comment :

Mark Gresham said...

I think one of the more striking commercial aspects of Christmas is that the Japanese associate Christmas and Santa Claus with Kentucky Fried Chicken. No kidding. Check it out.

Unrelated to Christmas, there is also a Coca-Cola product sold in Japan (at least in the 1980s it was) called "Georgia Iced Coffee." First of all, "iced coffee" is hardly indigenous to Georgia or a part of traditional Southern culture in general.

Yes, these days you can get iced coffee here, but it wasn't all that long ago that if you asked for it you'd get at best that long blank stare that clearly says "You're not from around here, are you?"

But the packaging of Georgia Iced Coffee was "so, so wrong": A powder-blue container (the Tyvek and Mylar* kind in which organic soups are often sold) with an oval engraving of a plantation (there are no coffee plantations in Georgia), festooned with the Dixie "stars and bars," and with the name emblazoned in an 1860s-style of typeface.

This was marketed only in Japan, not in the USofA, much less anywhere the American South. I've heard rumor that the product does still exist, but the packaging has recently been, um, redesigned.

But the Japanese do love Georgia and the antebellum South--especially "Gone With The Wind." They want to visit the fictional "Tara" plantation, and wonder why they see no hoop skirts in downtown Atlanta. If they look for the Loews Grand Theatre (where the movie premiered) they won't find it. It was burned in the latter 1970s by "vagrants" (Atlanta City government's favorite "urban renewal" method) at a time when it looked like ever-meddlesome historic preservationists might want to "save" the Loews (as they did the Fox Theater) and halt the "March of Progress"--aka the Georgia Pacific building, a pink-granite skyscraper which still occupies that spot today.

--Mark Gresham

* Also the name of a Boston law firm.