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msnbc.com
updated 11/25/2003 10:08:30 AM ET 2003-11-25T15:08:30

As retailers brace for the biggest shopping day of the year Friday, our readers are expressing strong opinions about the holiday shopping season. Love it or hate it, most readers seem to agree that retailers begin the Christmas push way too early in the year, with decorations sometimes going up before Halloween.

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MANY OF MSNBC.COM’s tech-savvy readers plan to avoid the malls entirely by shopping on-line or through mail-order catalogs. Others can’t wait for Black Friday, when they can put their elaborately developed shopping plans into motion.

Here is a selection of comments from our e-mailbag. Letters have been edited for brevity and grammar. Crass commercialism

It’s disgusting how the holidays are forced down your throat earlier than usual. Thanksgiving is not even here, and stores already have Christmas decorations up! I find it to be tacky, and for a holiday that is supposed to be about sharing with, and caring for those who are unfortunate, it’s not about anything but the sound of the cash registers.

Darren Russell Westbury, NY

One thing I know for a fact — people hate to see the decorations come out before Thanksgiving. It should be banned to do so before Thanksgiving — it takes away what Thanksgiving use to be about. I never put my lights up before the first of December, and believe me I have hundreds of lights to put up and people ask me, ‘Where are the lights?’ Not ‘til the first!

Christine Strembicki Clinton, Conn.

I went to a retailer in August for some gardening supplies only to find that Christmas decorations were being put on the shelves and yet Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving had to pass. I find it very disheartening when other holidays are overshadowed by the need for retailers to get Christmas on the shelves.

There’s no magic or holiday spirit anymore, just commercialism.

Elizabeth Usmari Edgewood, Maryland

Although I am not protesting against Black Friday or the commercialism of Christmas, I am protesting against Christmas music!

So far THREE radio stations within my listening area are all playing “All Christmas Music All The Time” until December 26th. In my opinion, that’s a little too early to “haul out the holly.”

Lynann Hagerman Kresgeville, Pa.

Serious shoppers
My cousins and I have a family tradition that started several years ago. On the day after Thanksgiving we split up and hit the sales, trying to be the first in line.

Thanksgiving night, we strategize and put our money together. Everyone has a list of what they buy at each store (the whole family chips in their lists and money at dinner). Around 4 a.m. Friday, we begin to move. All of the stores open at 6 a.m., with the exception of Target, which opens at 7. Three years ago I was second at Target, and last year I was first in line.

After everyone else finishes at their stores, they meet me in time to check out at Target. We always finish the day with breakfast at Chick-fil-A around 8:30.

Courtni Frizzell Tyler, Texas

As a young grandmother with 11 grandchildren to buy for (plus my own six children and their spouses and my parents), I use my husband to “run blocker” with the cart while I shop for deals on Friday after Thanksgiving. Our cell phones keep us in touch with our daughters who go to different stores as we shop for deals. We start at 4 a.m. and go as long as the money holds out.

Becky Cain Cicero, Ind.

I always map out my plan on Thanksgiving day for the BIG day after. Usually it begins at the Super Wal-Mart, then Value City, and on to the mall. I can go into the Wal-Mart at the 6 a.m. open, be out by 6:30, in Value City and out by 7:15 or 7:30 and then to stores like Kohl’s, Lazarus, and J.C. Penney. Complete with list in hand, I purchase basically the sale items and then home by noon.

Ellen Keaton Catlettsburg, Ky.

The reason for the season
I plan on doing what I do every Christmas. More accurately, what I don’t do — which is buy into the extreme consumerism of Christmas. By and large, Christmas has become devoid of any real humanity in this country. It’s about things not people, despite what you hear over and over: that “it’s really about family.” Count me out of this Brave New World.

Dana Enfinger Sacramento, Calif.

My shopping plans are minimal. I shop at the discount gift retailers. This year I am planning to volunteer at soup kitchens, and I am focused on the hunger and strife in the world. I totally am against gift anything. ... As a Jewish person I am always focused on “tikkun olam” — repairing the world — and this is one broken world. I couldn’t care less for material gift buying and giving this season.

Amy Sauber Blue Bell, Pa.

Buy as little as possible — celebrate the real reason for the season. In gift-giving, don’t give unneeded “stuff,” but gifts of time and service. Ask others that want to give me a gift to give a donation instead to Heifer Project, Gleaners Food Bank or Bread for the World. Spend the holidays with my family.

Andrea Clough Lebanon, Ind.

How can we as Christians justify enjoying the Christmas festivities while there is so much of misery in the world today, especially death of innocent human beings? How can we celebrate the feast while American soldiers are getting killed, a great loss to their families? There are many questions unanswered. So for me Christmas is just a day to recollect the past, present and what the future is in store for us.

Robert D Gonsalves Malverne, N.Y.

Tough times
No Christmas this year. At least not in my spending. I know that some relatives are sending presents for the kids, but I won’t be making any contributions to economic growth this year. I just don’t have the money for it. I don’t know that there’s been a year in my life that we didn’t have at least some Christmas.

Lysa Wright Lampasas, Texas

I was “downsized” in early 2002, and it took 17 months to find a new job. My life savings are gone, and won’t be coming back. I was forced to take a 40 percent pay cut. We won’t be spending anywhere near what we used to. I do, however, plan to avoid any store or product from a company that downsized employees, especially those that were 40 years old or above!

Brian Loiselle Midland, Mich.

We are a family of nine with four adults. We are holding down on the buying as we are trying to recover from debt in our household. The higher cost of utilities, insurance and other must-have purchases is taking a toll on our budget. We prefer to remove the burden of buying at the holiday season by spending more on birthdays. William EckmanButler, Pa.Unique gifts
I am putting together a “dress-up” box for each of my three grandchildren, one boy and two girls. I have been shopping antique and thrift stores for fancy hats, gloves, jewelry, colorful retro aprons, men’s ties and accessories, sports clothing, etc. I have found lots of unusual items, spent very little and had a lot of fun doing it!

Becky Aguilar Norman, Okla.

I plan to relax and enjoy the holidays, going to the mall to look at the new decorations and people shopping only. I bake and cook and sew my own presents. I know I am alone in that aspect so people really appreciate my fresh bread or food or pretty aprons.

Stephanie Jo Smith Houston

Financially prudent
I plan not to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. Just as retailers have pulled out nearly all of the stops to entice consumers, there is still the reality of debts that typically follow the Christmas shopping spree. Consumers may have more cash in tow, but there are other debts and expenses in line as well.

Anita L. Cobbins Kansas City, Mo.

Limit holiday spending. Stick to a budget that allows me to continue saving at least 20 percent of our net income. People can get so caught up in materialism that they put their family’s financial security at risk. I believe in celebrating the birth of our Savior and Lord. The purpose of the holiday has become spending and stuff. I don’t see much peace or goodwill in the department stores or the malls.

Doug Marshall Pikeville, Tenn.

Wal-Mart -- love it or hate it
I am going anywhere but Wal-Mart. I feel they have ruined the American retail economy. I have not shopped in Wal-Mart in over 10 years and have no intention of ever shopping there again. The complexion of retail has changed so drastically. Where is service? Thanks to Wal-Mart all we can do is pick an item off the shelf and stand in line. Yuk!!! Where is the individuality that marked the retail industry? Gone, thanks to the mega-retailers better known as Chinese outlets.

Juliene Pickens Montgomery, Texas

I love Wal-Mart. It’s the best company. They do it the best, and it kills me that anyone would badmouth their business practices. I don’t do malls. As far as commercialism, it’s what you make the holiday to be. You don’t have to go overboard. It’s a personal choice. God bless America and our wonderful people in the armed forces.

Judy W. Houston

Stay-at-home shoppers
I have not been to a mall in 10 years and God willing I will never darken their doors again. All of my shopping is done from catalog and the internet. I am not hassled or hurried by salespeople. I decide what I want and buy it. It is the only life for me.

Gary Falbe Longview, Texas

Because I’m handicapped and in a wheelchair, I do much of my holiday shopping before the holidays actually arrive — much of it by mail where I take advantage of “free shipping” specials. Then I’m free to watch other people get caught up in the crazy holiday shopping ritual.

Mike Stout Strathmore, Calif.

In one glorious word: QVC!!! I learned that sitting in your own home, with a cup of coffee and a notepad is the way to go. I also shop their Web site. I have three younger children, so both ways are easily done without spying eyes. Shopping in stores ruins the holiday for me. People tend to be irritable, and just to pick up a pair of panty hose keeps you in line for a half an hour. I choose to get into the holiday spirit by cooking, decorating or taking the kids to see the local light displays. Since I have left the stores, I have actually become one of the people who actually adore the holiday season.

Michelle Billingsley Marietta, Ohio

Better things to do
On Thanksgiving morning and while everyone else is in a shopping frenzy on Friday, our family will be enjoying quality time together watching the sun come up over the lake. No, we don’t live on a lake, but we get up early and travel there. You see, in Western Kentucky, Thanksgiving is also the opening day of duck season and our family of three enjoys the sport — together.

Jennifer Hopkinsville, Ky.Opting out

Like most men I plan on leaving the shopping to my wife and to my daughter. End of discussion.

Arnulfo Arredondo Jr. Elizabethtown, Ky.

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