by Bill Keeler

It's the day before the night before the new year.

Your Christmas tree is most likely still decorated in your home and there might even be a few unwrapped gifts sitting at the base.  The ball still hangs above New York's Times Square and America hasn't yet started their argument over which NCAA football team gets the honor of being called the National Champion.

Furthermore, Ryan Seacrest is more than a day away from his annual attempt to duplicate and replace the memory of Dick Clark and the roses are still being glued to the floats in Pasadena; yet, on a routine trip to my local pharmacy to pick up an in-season carton of egg nog to be consumed at midnight TOMORROW NIGHT, I found myself lost in a sea of red hearts and chocolates.

What kind of New Year's stuff is this?

I'm sure by now that you feel my set-up is well 'over-the-top and obvious,' as I gripe over the fact that the Christmas isle at almost every local store has already been replaced with hundreds and hundreds of Valentine's Day treats, cards and gifts.

Are you kidding?  What happened to the 50-percent-off-Sale?

'The new' has barely worn-off of Christmas, Santa Claus hasn't even made it back to the North Pole and Auld Lang Syne is still lost somewhere in my iTunes library.

Is it me or are we way premature? Two weeks? Three?

Are retailers so nervous about making budget that they feel it an economic necessity to get the stuff out earlier and earlier every year?

And, for the record, does anybody know anybody who buys anybody a Valentine's Day gift before Dan Fogelberg gets the chance to sing his annoying New Year's Eve song?

Yes, I'm sure it's probably better to have this stuff sitting out on the floor as opposed to keeping it back in some storage room, collecting what little dust might be collected if it stayed 'in waiting' for another two weeks.

I don't know about the rest of you; but, once again this year, I refuse to participate and conform to the further commercialization of a holiday that was born out of commercialization in the first place.  The whole Valentine's concept is just a scam to get men in trouble, sell more chocolate and keep Hallmark in business; and now we're starting in December!

Not me.  No, sir!

I will continue to follow through on my normal tradition of buying my wife her card and candy the day before Valentine's Day.  And you can bet your bottom dollar she'll continue to be grateful, even if her Valentine's Day gift is a box of Peeps and a chocolate Easter bunny.  (She might as well enjoy the Easter bling while she can.  That merchandise is pulled from the shelves on Palm Sunday to make room for Mother's Day!)

Happy New Year, everybody.  Celebrate while you can!