Being a professional artist naturally I have spent a fair chunk of my career in retail sales jobs. Despite the deeply ingrained disdain for humanity I learned on said jobs, I did figure out a few things.

Like Squishmas.

There are three days of Squishmas each year, usually around this time, and I’m surprised more people haven’t caught on to the phenomenon. This weekend was in fact, the first weekend of Squishmas here in London. Squishmas varies from calendar to calendar, place to place and therefor it’s kind of tricky to pin down.

Squishmas was the name given by one of my coworkers at a video store where I worked in college. It’s a festive way of refering to the busiest shopping days of the year. Those days when there’s still plenty of time to do your shopping but everyone suddenly goes “Holey Crap! I haven’t maxed out my credit cards yet!” Then fleeing to the malls, elbow to elbow in large hot coats to buy tons of stuff they don’t need.

The first day of Squishmas is either the weekend of the Santa Clause Parade or first snowfall of the year. Even if it’s before Halloween. It never fails. The stores will be packed the first day of snow. If that happens to be a Friday, it’ll be Squishmas all weekend. One of the funny things that happens on the first day of Squishmas is that you get all the people out who are determined to get finished early, get everything they want and have a stress free holiday. But, since most of them are there on an impulse and without too much forethought or lists made, what they usually end up doing, is farting around for six hours, buy some stuff for themselves and a Pepridge Farms cheese and sausage basket.

If the snow doesn’t fall first, it’ll be the weekend of the Santa Clause parade. (This weekend.) I don’t know if they did it this way here, but I remember the Parade starting at one end of town and ending at the mall. That was how Santa was introduced for photos and such. (That was how it was done when I was indentured one year as a Christmas Elf for Santa…but that’s another story.) The parade is much earlier now than when I was young, and as far as I know, none of the routs around here landed at the malls. Either way, it gets all the parents out to get their kid’s photo with Santa, family portraits, and card/decoration shoppers. Also, those would-be early birds who put in some pre-orders, pick up a few more gifts, a Pepridge Farms cheese and sausage basket then go home frazzled by the crowds and stop in at the LCBO on the way. The Second day of Squishmas marks the beginning of the busy season at the LCBO, and unless you want to get stuck in a line up for half an hour with twelve other exhausted people also wishing they were already drunk, get to the liquor store before noon from here until after Valentines day.

The third day of Squishmas is actually the entire second-last week before Christmas. This is when the malls bring in the free gift wrappers, and the midnight madness sales and when the day one early birds finally finish their shopping and swear they’re not coming into the mall after October ever again. This is also your last chance to get everything you originally wanted. After this, pickin’s get a little slim, sizes and colours run out, and it’s too late to order anything in before Christmas. You have to be Indiana Jones to make it out of Toys R’ Us alive, and going near Wal-Mart is simply taking your life into your own hands. However, you can still get plenty of Pepridge Farms cheese and sausage baskets.

Many people would assume that the last week before Christmas and Boxing day also count as part of Squishmas, but the former is surprisingly tame compared to the week before and Boxing day is mainly teenagers taking up food court space, returns, exchanges, getting rid of the stuff you don’t want to have to re-stock in the new year and taking down the decorations, so it’s been disqualified as an official part of Squishmas.

I am not a Squishmas participant. If I’m not working there, you won’t find me in the mall after the first of November. I do my shopping throughout the year and spend November and December tucked safely away in my kitchen baking. As I’ve sworn off cookies and candy this year, got the pickles canned back in August, there is salsa left to make and  the crackers and cheese balls have to be made fresh, so they can wait. The only gift I have left to buy is for my Dad and it’s coming from thinkgeek.com.

One way or another, for the first time in years, I found myself in the mall at Toys R’ Us of all places, on Saturday, the first day of Squishmas. I bought some stuff for myself, but thankfully, made it out sans Pepridge Farms cheese and sausage basket. (Yay me!)