It's safe to say that a vast majority of shoppers no longer recoil when Christmas trees take root in department stores as early as October. We've grown inured to the sight of cobweb-shrouded skeletons rubbing shoulders with rosy-cheeked Santas. We may grumble about the way holidays bleed together, but it's not like there aren't benefits--I would buy candy corn and Cadbury eggs year-round if given the chance.
But Mardi Gras' temporal boundaries have always been sacrosanct. Extend your Fat Tuesday reveling to the wee hours of Ash Wednesday and you're likely to get a face full of cold hose water. Wear beads in public during Lent and be pegged instantly as a tourist (or, if you're especially unlucky, mugged). Which makes the following display an all the more egregious example of seasonal collision:
Yes, that is Santa achieving lift-off from a virtual king cake metropolis. Three Kings Day is still a fortnight away! Who nibbles king cake with their egg nog? The stomach clenches (and the coronary arteries stiffen) at the thought. But my fellow shoppers blinked nary an eye at the sight of this display. Have we grown that numb?
"It's a holiday thing," a shopper explained as she loaded a king cake into her cart. "I'm in town for the holidays, and I want to get some king cake before I leave."
One can hardly fault that rationale. Still, there's something primally disconcerting about seeing Mardi Gras' purple, green and gold sharing real estate with Santa's red and green. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I'd like to point out that transplanted king cake fiends can order their fixes year round from Gambino's and Haydel's.
If that doesn't curb the tide of pre-Epiphany king cake sales, perhaps a fleet of volunteer firemen with water guns will. Shoppers, you have been warned.