Today was one of those sweltering summer mornings in New York City where you’re already melting by the time you get to the subway—and then you get the car without air conditioning. Which made it a really weird day to attend a holiday preview for the arts and crafts behemoth Michaels.
I ended up at the Michaels Holiday Preview—on the West Side of Manhattan, in what was probably an industrial space a decade or so ago and now likely hosts a lot of events like this—because I guess I’m into crafts now. Once I would have said nothing could be less appealing to me than spending my hard-earned money to create a subpar version of something that I could have just bought. But then I got back into cross stitching, because I needed a soothingly repetitive physical hobby. And also, I had a kid, which means that I now feel compelled to “do” Christmas. Please don’t send me the trailer for A Bad Moms Christmas; maybe the holiday will fill me with dread in a few years, but right now I am frankly delighted for this excuse to get very into construction paper and glitter glue.
If July seems very early for a holiday preview—even when you consider the retail tradition of attempting to capitalize on advance year-end enthusiasm with “Christmas in July” stunts—the explanation for this event is simple: magazines. Brands who want to get into the December issue of a magazine can’t wait until the fall to start wooing editors. You want to be six months out, never mind that it’s pushing 90 degrees and the mere mention of eggnog threatens to induce vomiting. Last year I attended a holiday press preview for QVC in late June. These are exactly the types of events that shape what goes into those spreads you’ll see browsing glossies later this year. Plus, they generally offer refreshments.
Michaels had stations for both making glitter ornaments and decorating cookies. I’m still picking glitter out of my décolletage. Again, it is so hot outside that as I was trudging back to the office afterward, my feet felt like I’d shoved them down close to a space heater. I’m wearing sandals. I didn’t touch the cookies because it was too hot for Christmas cookies.
This particular batch of products will be on shelves by October, which is less a statement on Christmas creep than a testament to how big a part of Michaels’ business the holidays are. Unless you are really into scrapbooking or another highly specific craft, when else would you go? “This is our big deal,” confirmed Mallory Smith, the company’s PR manager. She pointed out that they don’t do apparel, so it’s not like their seasonal plans turn on when you put out sweaters, and part of their customer base is people like Etsy sellers, who need raw materials for the stuff they’ll be selling later in the year.
Plus, yes, their customers fucking love Christmas. “They like to deck out their house and have it up for a long time, so as many weeks and days they can show off their decor,” she said. If anything, you risk a picked-over selection if you wait until late November. That’s in addition to, as I learned when I braved a Queens outpost at nine months pregnant, a line approximately seven miles long.
Surprisingly, the make-your-own glitter ornaments and the cookie decoration where the only real DIY elements of the event, other than the spread full of arts and crafts gifts (gel pens, a pottery set, etc) for kids. This was all about the home goods and accessories—tchotchkes to put on the abundant surfaces you perhaps have if you live somewhere with homes larger than shoeboxes. And so, your Christmas trends, organized thematically. Loosely, anyway. Tomorrow’s Pinterest today.
First up was a section dubbed “Santa’s Sparkle Shop.” A banner loomed over the display—heavy on glitter and metallics, particularly silver, gold and above all blush—featuring an oil can labeled “industrial glitter.” A cartoon elf wielded a blowtorch. Apparently “metal shop” was a popular vibe last year, and so they are bringing it back for 2017. The stand-out piece: A deer covered in silver glitter. Look, I’m not even going to lie to you; I need this deer.
Next was Santa’s Paint Shop, hosting a vaguely retro-style collection of traditional red and green, but also featuring mint blue. There was a #naughty throw pillow, but also ornaments meant to evoke preppy postwar New England, including a station wagon with a tree on top that looked like it belonged in an old L.L. Bean catalog or some 1950s fever dream about Vassar. Then came Santa’s Wood Shop—alpine Christmas, sort of a rustic catch-all. Honestly, too much gesturing toward power tools and not enough patterns that would look right with a dirndl for my preferences.
After that came coastal Christmas. Think Jimmy Buffett Christmas album. If I were a wealthy, middle-aged woman living in Charleston with a lifetime subscription to Southern Living, I would be all over this collection, which included a genuinely magnificent jellyfish ornament. I’m probably going to buy that jellyfish ornament, anyway. Though my strong favorable response may have been due to the fact that Christmas music cannot fool my body into thinking it is anything close to December, and right now, what my body wants is cool water.
Last came Santa’s Sewing Shop, which was sort of quirky boho Christmas. Christmas for the old-school, pre-Walmart Modcloth fan who will be relying heavily on the She & Him Christmas album for her parties. That girl is going to get really into felt this Christmas. Felt ornaments, felt decorative cactuses, felt dangling things. For some reason, wooden letters laid out on this table spelled the word “BEANS.”
The full ridiculousness of all that I have just described to you did not fully hit me until just now, hours later. Somehow, everything felt normal and indeed even perfectly reasonable when sitting together in a room, weather that makes you feel like a melted popsicle notwithstanding. A painting of a crab wearing a Santa hat labeled “Santa Claws”? Sure. Metallic glitter deer? I’ll take two! It’s a testament to the nature of the frenzied American holiday season itself. Cram everything associated with December into just a few weeks and most people roll with it—even in the glaring sunlight of July, when it’s objectively bananas.