Who killed Santa Claus? Who killed Santa Claus?

Kinda has a snappy beat to it when you put it to the old Christmas carol, doesn’t it? I used to sing this tune to my nieces and nephews — bringing tears at times — when I was the cool (or donkey-backside according to my brothers), single uncle who didn’t have to worry about the pulse of Santa for when the big fella shined the most. Now that I have 9- and 4-year-old daughters, I can see where my brothers were coming from. But that is little solace today.

Craig Hall, Publisher
Craig Hall

For those who know me well, I’m somewhat demented at times when it comes to Christmas. But when you consider I had such a love of the season in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when I began my time in retail over 35 years ago, you should be amazed I’m not even more jaded. But that’s where I’m headed today after doing the stories for our holiday business section in this edition of the Business Times.

You know the saying bigger isn’t always better? Well, someone needs to explain this to the mucky-mucks in charge of the retail community in this country. We now have stores all over the Grand Valley opening up at midnight the day after Thanksgiving to get a jump on the holiday shopping season. Worse yet, this trend looks like it will only expand when next year rolls around. No wonder Santa wouldn’t mind being offed by some

ex-retail junkie — he can’t take the hours at the mall and he works 24-7 at the North Pole getting ready for the big day.

So while my sick mind might make up its own “It’s A Small World” scary tune to replay in your head, just know this one fact: If you find the jolly old elf toes up with pennies on his eyes, I didn’t pull the trigger.

You see, things were just fine back in the day when we were literally decorating the front windows of the stores as the happy customers were flowing in great holiday spirits with smiles on their faces. What’s that scene now? It’s more like a cross between a cattle stampede and the shootout at the OK Corral to be the first one to get to the $12, 30-inch television that will be on sale for less in two weeks anyway. Or perhaps you’re the white- hatted dad with the minivan looking to outduel the double-six-shooter packing soccer mom in all black with the Range Rover over the Tickle-Me-Barbie-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean doll? The only thing the stores that sponsor that kind of shootout are missing is having a western-themed carpenter selling the coffins he’s building on the spot for the victims of what has now become an annual shootout. (Side bar: Is anyone else thinking of Sharon Stone blowing away Gene Hackman in the movie “The Quick and the Dead?” Sorry.)

What’s really a shame is that this is how I now relate some of the fondest Christmas memories of my life. I loved helping people I knew personally find gifts for their loved ones, who I also knew very well. I truly enjoyed taking the time to sort out and array the items before I took the time to gift wrap each present and then make the bows by hand that went on the gifts. There was just something more personal and special about both the shoppers and the retailers that did business this way. It was incredible that in spite of the fact that I was indeed feeling the creep of the “Death Takes a Holiday” characters at the higher levels of retail management (the original “do as I say and not as I do because I ain’t working Thanksgiving like those poor schmucks” hypocrites) and all of the crazy hours and promotions, I still enjoyed the season. Ahhhh, but once I knew I was out, there was no dragging me back in. And it is for these very reasons. But once I was out, the vision became much clearer than in the snow globe that is big retail.

That’s not to say I couldn’t be lured back under my own conditions, because I still love a personal service-based retail environment. It’s a topic that indeed makes me thankful we live in the Grand Valley, because I truly see almost all of the places I shop still doing business that way.

But what I also feel is the cold breath of the scythe-carrying hooded dude knocking on the valley’s front door, and it’s not so he can hit the spa! The fact is, like a vampire (well it WAS just Halloween), once you invite this guy in, he’ll put two holes in the side of Santa’s neck faster than you can say “ho, ho, ho” and then we all live in the dark retail world of the undead for eternity. Hey, maybe that’s why so many of these guys open at midnight! It’s so management can actually go to the store!

But I do have a holiday wish for the Grand Valley and the world: peace on earth at the entrances to every store and goodwill toward men with sensible hours. That way we can all enjoy the holidays with the ones we love in the true spirit of CHRISTmas.