The Holiday Containment Act
by

Holiday wreaths being hung in October? Santa Claus making appearances in November? Christmas music before Thanksgiving? Enough! I think we need a new federal law to rein in the expanding duration and outlandish excesses of the Christmas holiday season.

Now, critics are sure to point out that our society is the most heavily regulated in the history of Western civilization. A nettlesome thicket of complex laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels govern virtually every aspect of our daily lives. They’ll argue that the last thing we need is another complex federal statute added to our bulging law books and further complicating our lives.

Nonetheless, with every holiday season, we see more compelling evidence of an urgent need for this new law to contain and control our runaway Christmas holiday… call it the Holiday Containment Act (“HCA”). One Washington acronym expert suggested naming the bill, General Regulations and Initiatives for National Containment of Holidays (or “GRINCH”), but the cutesy idea was quickly rejected.

The case for this new law is obvious. Christmas decorations go up earlier and earlier with every passing year. Once again this year, holiday decorations began to pop up on State Street and Michigan Avenue, as well as suburban shopping malls in early November, threatening to replace the family warmth of Thanksgiving with tinsel, pine boughs, and Jingle Bells. If this trend continues, in a few years we could be hanging Christmas wreaths in September while we store patio furniture after Labor Day.

Shortly after Halloween, colorful holiday lights were strung in trees along our boulevards, Santa’s image began to pop up in toy commercials on kid’s TV programming, and I even heard a few Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” droning through the Muzak system in an office building elevator, and it was just early November!

It’s been yet another runaway holiday season this year spilling over the natural bounds of its designated month. Laws are designed to rectify wrongs in our society. Christmas in October and November is wrong. We desperately need the Holiday Containment Act.

Title I of this new federal law would strictly prohibit any Christmas celebration, including lavish decorations, cheery holiday music, and Santa appearances (whether by helicopter or Hummer) in malls and department stores until the month of December. Stiff fines and restraining orders would be issued by federal courts against offending merchants or individuals.

The statute would create a new federal agency, the Holiday Regulatory Commission (“HRC”) with broad authority to enforce the new law and issue binding regulations to further the purposes of the act. For example, the Commission might be expected to issue broad regulations prohibiting the premature hanging of mistletoe, candy canes, and holiday lights.

Title II of the law would place reasonable restrictions on holiday excess. Under this section of the statute, the size and scope of holiday displays, including North Pole replicas, nativity scenes, and menorahs would be sharply curtailed. Any neighborhood holiday light display consuming more than 40 kilowatt hours of electricity per day or playing holiday music or Santa “Ho-Ho-Ho’s” at more than 100 decibels would result in steep fines and possible jail time.

The new law also would clamp down on commercial advertising and those endless, gala “Holiday Specials” in prime-time. Print ads appearing in October, boasting special opportunities to “Get the jump on great holiday savings!” would be banned. And, the ads touting “Helpful hints for painless holiday shopping!” and “Steep pre-holiday discount sales!” that run in early November would result in heavy fines. Under a special provision of the new law, those network “Holiday Specials” featuring pop idols and aging vocal artists like Kenny Rogers or Glenn Campbell would be allowed only after December 15.

The future of this important new law is uncertain. Constitutional scholars say the statute would infringe on freedom of religion protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. They predict legal challenges that could tie the law up in the courts for years. Meanwhile, retail merchants complain that the statute would infringe on their rights to free commercial speech. Santa claims he would be a victim of false imprisonment under the proposed law.

In a coalition of unusual allies, the ACLU has threatened to file a broad-based legal challenge to the proposed law on behalf of the religious right, network television, retail merchants, North Pole, Inc., with Santa Claus himself as the lead plaintiff. It’s amazing how such a sensible law can forge a coalition of such strange bedfellows.

Whatever the ultimate fate of this proposed law, I think I’m safe now wishing all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza… or simply a happy holiday season. After all the pre-holiday season hype and the shameless marketing blitz this fall, it’s finally December… time to really celebrate the season.

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