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Thanksgiving is weeks away but it's already beginning to look a lot like Christmas in malls and retail stores. The "holiday season" traditionally beginning at Thanksgiving and ending the first week of January, is expanding, but is the result added merriment ... or added stress?

From a business point of view, trying to expand one of the most profitable times of the year makes a lot of sense. My stomach churns, however, when I see a dancing Santa Claus by the escalator of the department store or a branch of garland hanging from a store ceiling before Nov. 15 (they can often be seen long before that).

After all, it was Labor Day a couple of years ago while I was doing my back-to-school shopping that I observed a dancing and singing Santa Claus by the escalator. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, relishing the air conditioning in the store, and the store was selling a dancing Santa Claus?

Even the radio stations, playing nonstop holiday music before Thanksgiving, leave a slight nauseating sensation. There seems to be no break now between trick-or-treating and Christmas.

Keep in mind, I love Christmas and the New Year; I am no Ebenezer Scrooge. I have no problem with those who want to do early Christmas shopping, because freedom of choice is what America is all about. But many, including me, believe that when you start certain "seasons" early, you fail to enjoy the present moment. This applies not just to Christmas but to all times of year. The back-to-school catalogs often arrive in the first few days of summer, and back to school ads show up by the first week of August or earlier.

When you begin the back-to-school shopping in July, can you still enjoy the fact that summer is the only time when you don't have to think about school? Halloween costume superstores usually open by mid- to late-September, traditionally one of the last truly sunny, warm times of the year. Halloween decorations often show up as soon as school starts. Why bother yourself on a sunny September day with something that could be dealt with on a cold, dreary day closer to Halloween? Why not enjoy September when it's time for September and enjoy Halloween when it's time for Halloween?

In short, it's not just the December holidays that retailers try to maximize profits for.

Indeed, Christmastime is a time of giving and caring for others. In shopping for Christmas gifts before all the leaves are off the trees, are we caring for others when we shop or are we wrapping ourselves up in material goods, figuring it's just "one more thing to get out of the way"? Very early Christmas shopping adds nothing to the quality of life, it just makes the American way of life all the busier and materialistic.

Brian Hayden is a junior at St. Joseph's Collegiate.