Perhaps nothing threatens to turn us into a nation of bah-humbug malcontents who make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Gandhi more than the advent of this day: Black Friday, a time when armies of shoppers are turned into cold-blooded mercenaries equipped with credit cards and sensible shoes out for the kill of the sale.
This may come as something of a shock to those of you who have been sitting out front of a store since 2 a.m. today waiting for the doors to open at 3 a.m., but there is more than one flat-screen television available for purchase. Really. Honest. The make bunches of them. They do!
And yet there they are, armies of consumers eager to begin consuming all in anticipation of the birth of the baby Jesus.
Hark the herald angels sing — act fast now to buy that bling.
How did we get to this point? Not that this is exactly a slice of Americana, but wasn't it all that long ago when the Christmas shopping season sort of officially began right after Thanksgiving? Now the faux mistletoe and refrains of Bing Crosby warbling White Christmas in the aisles of department stores start showing up before Halloween.
In another three weeks, we'll all hate Nat King Cole and his roasted chestnuts.
Are we that far away from Santa displays hawking iPads, power saws and Chanel No. 5 around the Fourth of July? Easter? The start of Lent?
We three kings of Orient are — looking forward to getting a new car.
After surviving a lengthy political season and the attendant fingernail-on-a-blackboard commercials, now we are going to be exposed time and again to the same yuletide advertising.
It makes you yearn for one of those angry, puckered Alex Sink ads nagging Rick Scott to stop whatever it was he was doing — right now!
Then, of course, begins the season on Dec. 26 when everyone returns all the stuff that someone else sat in a parking lot in the dead of night in November waiting to buy.
Layaway in a manger -— a Weber grill, with all the bells and whistles.
Let's face it, for most Americans Christmas has about as much to do with celebrating a religious observance as professional wrestling has to do with sportsmanship.
The most powerful nation on the face of the planet has become dependent on the economic stimulus of the Christmas season to goose the nation's financial fortunes. If not enough 14-year-old boys find a PlayStation 3 from China under the tree, we're all toast.
Do you hear what I hear? Twenty-five percent off on blue jeans with holes in them at Abercrombie & Fitch.
And so the great Diaspora of Discover cardholders sweeps out across the land in the wee hours this morning to find their place in line before the doors of retailers who somehow have come to the conclusion if people don't start spending away before the turkey gravy is even cold Christmas will become one large chunk of coal on the bottom line.
Perhaps what this exercise demonstrates is that there are two types of people in this world — those who are willing to subject themselves to virtually any masochistic indignity to get what they think is a bargain, and the others who would rather set fire to their hair and put it out with a tack hammer than stand in line for hours to buy the latest techno gewgaw.
Silent Night — but apparently not at 4 a.m. at the Citrus Park Mall.
There are always cries of despair this time of year from various quarters distressed over the frenzy to shop and shop and shop some more at the expense of the quaint true meaning of Christmas.
And you know, when some people are showing up at the mall in their jammies to get the jump on getting that ever vital bottle of Britney Spears cologne, perhaps the Christmas purists have a point.
I'll be home for Christmas — eventually.
But for the foreseeable future, as long as merchants are hanging by a thread as they look to the holiday season for their survival, the masses will continue to be lured to the parking lots of the nation's retailers to eagerly await the ceremonial opening of the doors.
Is it sort of sad? Yes. Is it the new Yule normal? Yes.
O little town of Bethlehem — if only you had a discount outlet mall.