I know I am showing my age, but I can remember when the Thanksgiving Day Parade in any major city marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. By the time this decade began, Christmas advertising campaigns seemed to be launched immediately after Halloween, probably before all of the collected candy had been consumed in most households. The more perceptive comedians started speculating that it would not be long before the Christmas shopping season would be launched on Labor Day.
That time may now be upon us, particularly since the British are now trying to one-up us at this game. The United Kingdom, unlike the United States but like just about every other country in the world, celebrates its Labor Day on May 1; but since 1871 they have had a bank holiday that aligns roughly with the end of summer. I say "roughly" because the August bank holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in August (making it exactly four weeks before our Labor Day); and, according to a report on the BBC News Web site, this year August bank holiday will mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, at least at Selfridges (which pretty much guarantees that all other shops will be dragged along in its wake). Apparently, past trade from tourists vacationing in August, who have decided that it would be really cool to give Christmas presents purchased overseas, motivated this early launch.
So that old gag about Labor Day has gone stale. Nevertheless, it should not take long for it to be replaced by a counter-challenge to the British. My guess is that American retailers will be ready to retaliate next year by launching the Christmas shopping season on the Fourth of July. After all, from our point of view, what could be more American than Christmas shopping? Santa can now just make his entrance at the end of the Fourth of July parade, rather than waiting for Thanksgiving!