Article Date: 12/1/2011

What Happened to Christmas <i>Time?</i>

What Happened to Christmas Time?

The 24/7/365 culture should change our perception of time … and the holidays.

From The Editorial Director
Jim Thomas

Through the past 30 years, technological innovations have created a shift in our perception of time. This shift becomes obvious around the holidays.

Journeying back to the 1960s, we tuned to CBS to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That night brought families together because it was a once-a-year event. If you missed the Grinch when it aired that one time on broadcast television, you couldn't see it again until the following year. The best you could do is hope to catch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on NBC.

By the mid-1980s, television expanded from three broadcast networks to hundreds of cable stations, which didn't subscribe to the one-and-done model of broadcasting. So, if you missed the Grinch on Tuesday at 9 p.m., you could catch it again on Thursday at 8 p.m. or Saturday at 6:30. (A Christmas Story runs for 24 hours straight.)

If television didn't provide enough choice, all was not lost. Beginning with the mass marketing of video cassette recorders, viewers could watch programs anytime of the day. If you wanted to take a break to get a drink or make popcorn, you didn't have to wait for a commercial, you just hit the pause button.

With this new freedom came an equal and opposite reaction: A sense of urgency was lost. There was no longer a need to bring the entire family together at precisely at 8 p.m. And a question arose: What is so special about a “special” that you can watch whenever you want?

No rush for shoppers

This sense of urgency and “special time” continued to decline with the growth of the Internet. Sure, hundreds of shoppers still camp out to be among the first to “enjoy” the Black Friday deals at Best Buy. But millions log on to their favorite retailers websites where the store is always open. Marketers tried to conjure a little urgency by offering Cyber Monday deals, but many e-sellers have expanded these sales to an entire week. Again, more time equals less urgency.

Our loss is our gain

I won't argue that we've lost one sense of urgency with a 24/7/365 society, but haven't we gained something else? This is, when TV and shopping traditions become anytime events, we're free to focus more on a time that is truly limited, the time that should create a sense of urgency. And that is the time with family, friends and loved ones.

On behalf of the entire Optometric Management staff, I wish you and your family a very happy and healthy holiday season. OM

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2011