Sorry, Macy’s

Friday 30 October 2015 — Port-O-Call: Neiman Marcus, New York (in my mind) — belated Holiday greetings

You know me, dear readers. They call me “Father Christmas.” If I were to conduct a survey asking when the holiday season begins, I bet most people would answer, “with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.” That’s the response encouraged by Macy’s, but it is wrong — and not for the reason you suspect.

Faithful readers of The Anchor will probably answer that the Church’s Christmas season begins with the end of the Fourth Week of Advent. That’s correct, but it’s not the question. The question is, “When does the commercial holiday season begin?” 

People complain when, at Halloween, they already find Christmas merchandise displayed. I’m here to tell you that such Christmas merchandising isn’t early; it’s late. 

You may think that Halloween/Christmas displays are in poor taste, but the reality is even more tasteless. By Halloween, the commercial holiday season is well underway. Hang on to your Santa hats, dear readers. The commercial holiday season began the first week of October. You’re already running late.

Those in-the-know (like myself), realize that the checkered flag for the holiday rat-race is waved neither with Halloween nor with Thanksgiving, but with the publication of the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue. The holiday season, dear readers, began a month ago. Take heart, there’s still time for your last-minute shopping. 

Neiman Marcus mails a limited number of its Christmas catalogue (only 900,000), but, to those in merchandising, it’s the traditional signal that the race is on. Sorry, Macy’s. 

Their outrageous annual Christmas catalogue was inspired by a question concerning extravagant Christmas gifts of Texas oil barons. The question was posed by Edward R. Morrow to Stanley Marcus. That radio interview gave Marcus a bright (and lucrative) idea. 

The first Christmas “fantasy gift” appeared in 1959. It was a Black Angus steer. It came with a cart (silver-plated) from which to serve your guests Black Angus steaks. That was a publicity stunt but, as we all know, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The one exception, of course, is your own obituary. 

I’ve seen a couple of these Neiman Marcus catalogues over the years, but I’ve never bought anything. You’ve heard of fantasy football, well, this is fantasy shopping. I suppose some millionaire someplace is pretentious enough to actually buy this stuff.

Last year, if you were on a budget, you could get a genuine plastic ice scraper with fur-covered handle (faux, of course) for only $35. 

If you, for some reason, dislike the smell of wet fur, the solution was also in the catalogue. For only $475,000 you could get custom-made perfume. This included two dozen bottles and 14 atomizers of your one-of-a-kind scent. It should last a lifetime, used sparingly. 

In addition to the perfume, the cost included two first-class plane tickets to Paris to meet with the Grand Master Perfumer from the world-famous House of Greed (sic) perfume company, an elegant dinner with the perfume guy, five-star accommodations, limo service, and a private tour of Paris.

Hope you shopped early (April, perhaps). It takes several months to concoct your signature perfume. They say April in Paris is lovely (By the way, you could have stayed home and got your mother’s “Evening in Paris” for only $35 an ounce — which amounts to considerable savings).

But last year’s catalogue is now s-o-o-o last year (as they say at the returns desk of Neiman Marcus). The 2015 catalogue is out. 

This year, you can purchase an out-of-this-world adventure. You’ll be invited to Arizona to view a test flight of a high-altitude balloon. In 2017, you and seven friends (or enemies) will ascend 100,000 feet in the balloon’s “luxury capsule.” You’ll get a million-dollar view from the edge of space for only $720,000. Taxes not included.

If you’re terrified of heights, don’t worry. You can purchase a three-day motorcycle road trip through the backwoods of California with some guy named Keanu Reeves. The $150,000 price tag does, after all, include airfare and your very own brand-new motorcycle. Meals and accommodations apparently not included.

For only $30,000, you can buy tickets to a concert by musicians Lyle Lovett, Billy Gibbons, and Steve Miller. At the end of the concert, they will present you with their used guitars.

For the women, there’s a collection of costume jewelry from around the world. It includes lunch and a “styling session” with 93-year-old fashion maven Iris Apfel. Iris can be a tad flashy. Her motto is, “More is more, less is a bore.” For $80,000, perhaps Iris will encourage you to wear all 250 pieces of jewelry simultaneously. 

For the past month, I’ve have been sitting by my pre-lit artificial Christmas tree awaiting the arrival of armfuls of Neiman Marcus gifts sent to me by friends and family. 

In the meantime, I’m practicing a facial expression of surprise and the line, “Oh my, you really shouldn’t have.” But what if they really don’t?

Well, there’s always the 2016 Christmas catalogue. Neiman Marcus is working on it even as we speak.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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