Christmas Does NOT Start in November!
It’s an accepted fact of life: gastro pubs will start touting for Christmas party bookings while your summer holiday snaps are still wet from the printer; tins of Christmas chocolates will appear on supermarket shelves the moment pumpkins have been removed; shop windows the length and breadth of the High Street will be festive and twinkly long before you start Christmas shopping.
Businesses start touting early to get their slice of the pie. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. And it’s really not that difficult to ignore it all until I’m good and ready.
Shops and pubs and supermarkets have this theory that if they start telling us it’s Christmas earlier and earlier each year we’ll believe it and start shopping like the frenzied zombies we do actually become when we eventually decide it’s time to take Christmas seriously. Until recently, I’ve genuinely felt that, for all the commercial hype, most people are sensible enough to ignore the pressure and begin the festive countdown at a sensible date. Or after 1st December at any rate.
Is it really too much to ask that Christmas at least happens in December?
But this year, I think the commercial hype has won out. Bewildered children are being taken to sit on Santa’s knee in the grotto before their Hallowe’en costume has been washed and put away for another year, and heretofore sensible people are putting their Christmas decorations up in mid-November.
Now, each to their own and all that but for me, one of the nicest things about feeling really Christmassy is putting your decorations up and sitting there that first evening, seeing the fairy lights on the tree twinkling in the corner of the room, lighting some Christmas scented candles, listening to Christmas music and really knowing that Christmas is just around the corner. If I put my decorations up around the 15th December, I can sustain that lovely, tingly, festive feeling quite easily right up until the day itself.
How does that work for the early birds? Must take real effort to pretend it’s Christmas in mid-November. And even if it’s possible, how do you maintain that for over a month? By the time you actually get to 25th December, much of the excitement must have dissipated. You’ve walked past the tree so many times by now, you don’t even notice it much any more, much less stop in wonderment to gaze at it and think how lovely it looks.
“But it’s for the children!”, I hear the cry. Do children need Christmas in November? Ok, they know it’s not that far away and if they’re anything like my two, they’ll have been compiling toy lists from the Argos catalogue since mid-September and asking for a daily tally of “how many more days…?”. But does their impatience have to be gratified in mid-November? Are we really making Christmas as special as it could be for our children by letting them have it so early? Isn’t the anticipation of waiting just as exciting as having it? I think back to my own childhood and believe Christmas was so special because it made such a brief appearance. Those two weeks the house was decorated were treasured all the more.
Now, I’m not a particularly religious person. I do take a little more time to reflect on the higher orders of existence at this time of year, but by and large, Christmas for me is about family, friends, feeling warm and jolly, mulled wine and mince pies, the excitement of planning brightly wrapped and badly ribboned gifts for those I love. It’s that tiny segment of the year when we try to replicate the Good Housekeeping magazine covers isn’t it? “Countdown to a perfect Christmas“, they shout. It’s that elusive nostalgic perfection we’re all striving for.
Is it just a sign of the times? Society as a whole is not the fresh-faced, neighbourly entity we’d like it to be; money is tight and families are struggling with the ever-increasing cost of living. Perhaps, in trying to recreate Christmas that little bit earlier each year, we’re just trying to grab a little bit more happiness in lives that are less then perfect.
Personally, it wouldn’t make me happier to have Christmas last twice as long as usual. It would just make the whole season less special. A bit like having your oldest childhood friend, who you look forward to seeing just once a year, suddenly moving in next door and realising that, actually, they aren’t as interesting as you used to think.
I’ll keep resisting the pressure to do Christmas early. I’ll switch the radio channel when I hear Band Aid rocking along to “Do They Know it’s Christmas” on 27th November. I’ll shop when I’m good and ready. And now, it seems, I’ll be averting my gaze politely from the tinsel adorning my neighbours’ houses in the middle of autumn.