Each year my wife and I take her grandmother to Indianapolis’ own Christmas Gift & Hobby Show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Now on its 65th year, the Show is always held in the first half of November, shortly after Halloween and well before Thanksgiving. Judging by popular internet sentiment, you’d think there would’ve been protesters marching outside, picketing and demanding it be postponed till the weekend following Thanksgiving or else. Judging by the steady crowds packing every aisle, apparently the average citizens don’t much care about popular internet sentiment. I’m surprised we didn’t receive word of a shutdown from the Christmas fire marshal.
The Show’s name is the ideal theme, but not all participants stay on message. The best and brightest booths offer Christmas decorations, toys, clothing, and other festive items for the one holiday. Many others booths offer assorted gift ideas you can buy in bulk for the whole family — sweatshirts, scarves, toys, knickknacks, hand-carved things, licensed character merchandise, cheap gizmos, candy, cheeses, animal jerky, and so on. Still more booths want to sell you home improvement services, add you to their telemarketing list, or introduce you to their direct-sales consulting business. Our family doesn’t find that last division too Christmassy, but if other families consider those traditional and look forward to greeting their reps every year, that’s their call to make, and their sales calls to receive after the fact.
The Show wasn’t our first sign of Christmas this year. I read reports that a few retailers have already been advertising on TV. I received my first Amazon Black Friday heads-up email last week. The head of our Homeowners Association has her reindeer lights set up in her front yard, but turned off for now as a reluctant concession. None of our radio stations have switched to all-Christmas playlists yet, but I’m sure they’re ready and willing as soon as their corporate overlords raise the Christmas starting flag.
I can’t claim high-ground immunity here myself — I bought a new Christmas CD last weekend. In my defense, it was new new, as in a 2014 release, not leftover clearance-bin copies of Boxcar Willie’s Holiday Hobo Hootenanny or A Very Weepy Ghost Whisperer Christmas. I’m a sucker for those rare new Christmas albums that appeal to any of my musical tastes and it was on sale. Feel free to judge anyway.
Beyond the shopping and snacking opportunities, the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show features live entertainment from local singers and dancers, both kids and adults. Parents who drag their wee ones along can also pay a visit to Santa Claus, who’ll cheerfully pose for photos with them, listen to their want lists, and remain stoic in the face of each and every kiddie nervous breakdown. This year’s new feature was live reindeer photo-ops, but the price was a little steep for posing with any non-famous reindeer. If they’d brought in a big name like Rudolph or his parents or even the doe who heartlessly rejected him because of his genetic mutation, then we might reconsider.
My wife and I don’t attend for our own sakes. My wife’s grandmother, age 89, lives the anti-exotic shut-in’s life. She appreciates having visitors, but she’s stuck at home all year long except when relatives take her to shop for groceries, to church on Sunday, or to select family gatherings. Each year we also escort her to a couple of her favorite events, one of which is the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show. Ask her about the Show when the time draws near, and her face beams like someone plugged her in and flipped an “on” switch.
For a few precious hours she puts on her favorite Christmas sweatshirt, escapes her quaint little abode, thrills as I drive her around the show floor in her wheelchair, smiles at the Christmas displays, mingles with an unsuspecting public, splurges on dark chocolate and maybe a new fashion accessory, giggles at the cutest babies, compliments anyone else who wears Christmas gear for the occasion, and shares TMI medical horror stories with any salespeople who mistakenly make eye contact. This show is basically her Super Bowl.
Sure, I could join in the nagging choruses of “IT’S NOT CHRISTMAS YET! TOO SOON!” and convince myself that we collective naysayers are sanctimonious soldiers fighting in the War on Thanksgiving. It wouldn’t be hard. Internet mobs are easy to join.
Or I can take half a day out of my life to let a little old lady have new sights and moments to treasure. Who am I to enforce calendar snobbery and deny her a gift like this?