COMMENTARY:

Thinking About Celebrations

by Fred Cederholm
Crowds out on Friday were up 7% over last year. However, it should also be noted that roughly 40% of would-be shoppers are still paying on their 2009 Christmas purchases.

I’ve been thinking about celebrations. Actually I’ve been thinking about Advent, Thanksgiving, Black Friday to “click” Monday, shopping, the economy, the equity markets, Christmas, and Calvary Church. 2010 is winding down --- an event that I am NOT sorry to see happen! Still for me though ever so slow, 2010 was much much better than 2009. I wish I could say that it was a year of recovery for the US as a whole. I also wish I could say that was a year of recovery for the world’s economies and that we are headed for “peace on earth.” At best... we held our own with some things being worse, some things being the same, and some things being better.

You see Sunday began Advent of the Church year. It is a time of beginnings, of changes, and of adjustments. Thanksgiving was as truly wonderful as I described in my column last week. (I overate, but who didn’t?) I stayed put on Friday with Mac II, my little Scottie, and only followed the “celebration” of the busiest shopping day on TV and on-line. The buying frenzy began early Friday morning. Retailers make roughly half of their total annual sales between Thanksgiving and mid January. If sales are good, they are “black” as in “in the black.” If sales are not good, they are black as in “depressed.” The kick off continues thru “click” Monday when the largest one day dollar sales transactions are booked on-line --- enter, click, send.

The “celebratory” shopping is regarded as a leading economic indicator of where we are headed for the coming year. Will this mark the beginning of a turnaround and a cause for real celebration? The stores are ready. They began this selling season with the largest inventory of goods since the Christmas season of 2007. The discounted prices on all goods and services are ever so tempting. It is too early to tell how merchants made out this year, but the crowds out on Friday were up 7% over last year. It should also be noted that roughly 40% of shoppers are still paying on their 2009 purchases. Will the sales in 2010 be bigger? (And... will the purchases from 2009 finally be paid off?)

The economy is the focus for a lot of people. Unemployment (and underemployment) is resting heavily on all of US/ us. The numbers just don’t seem to be getting better, despite the spin from Washington DC and the Obama administration. Real estate delinquencies are rising, and increased foreclosures are lurking in the wings. Property sales are improving in some areas of the country, but at near bargain basement prices. None of these situations are going to change much (for the better or worse) between now and the end of the year.

The equity markets actually have been doing surprisingly well in recent weeks. (Yes, SURPRISINGLY well...) The Wall Street elves have been busy crunching numbers and graphing the results. I get graphs and pie charts from my readers all over the country on a daily basis. They are trying to inform me (or rather convince me) where we are headed. I wish I knew the answer right now. I can tell you that their results are running roughly 50% for bull market, and recovery; and roughly 50% for a bear market, and double dip recession. Honestly some of the graphic depictions look more like “modern” (as in abstract) art, or the design flow chart for some super duper roller coaster. I would argue, however, that we can’t have a second dip down, unless we have first seen a real recovery. Trust me, we haven’t! I am sure that my predictions of a DOW at 4,300 bottom by December 31st will not occur so THAT is cause for celebration! Many financial pundits are already posturing themselves and their predictions as to where the markets will close at the end of 2010. I can guarantee that in any case there will be celebrations because that is also New Year’s Eve. So CHEERS to one and all!!!

Before we get to 2011, I look forward to the many coming celebrations of Christmas. Sunday we had our 14 plus foot Christmas tree (fully trimmed) up at St John’s. As always, it is gorgeous! There were poinsettias on the altar and in the fellowship hall. We lit the first candle on the Advent ring. We prepared ourselves for the celebrations to come. I haven’t even gotten the boxes of Christmas stuff out yet. (At least I know where they are this year, which is a step in the right direction.) Mac II and I usually decorate our tree on Christmas Eve which has been the tradition in the household since I was a little guy and did the holiday celebrations with my folks (I miss them).

On a truly happy note, Sunday was the installation of new a pastor at nearby Calvary Lutheran Church. This was a new beginning on several fronts. Pastor Craig Nelson and his family are new to the area and it was the beginning of Calvary’s new affiliation with the LCMC, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. There was a large crowd of members, guests, and dignitaries present. I attended with a group of five more from my church at St. Johns. There was a coming together of congregations in this area. It was a time of celebration, of camaraderie, of hope, of peace, of fellowship, of conversations, and of course, food. This is what we do around here, and the way things should be everywhere. I wish Pastor Nelson, his family, and all my readers a most joyous season of coming celebrations. PEACE!!!

I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.


Copyright 2010 Questions, Inc. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.). He can be reached at asklet@rochelle.net.



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This story was published on November 29, 2010.