Every year the countdown to Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. Is it simply capitalism run amok? Or do we need seasonal cheer more than ever?
The back half of the year has always been marked by holidays. First Halloween, then Guy Fawkes Night, and after that, the long lead-up to Christmas. Time was, you could at least rely on retailers being so busy selling fake blood and wigs in October that they wouldn’t try and flog you any holly until at least November — but this year, poinsettias and elf hats could be found in the aisles right next to the vampire fangs and green face paint.
The Christmas industrial complex has grown so massive it is encroaching on shop shelves a little earlier each autumn. Supermarkets and department stores debut their seasonal adverts as if they’re summer blockbusters, and the only songs you’re likely to hear in stores or on the radio from November onwards are festive fare.
And each year, all of this gets on my nerves. I like everything about Christmas (the food, the presents, time spent with loved ones, the excuse to drink non-stop for days on end) but I don’t require a month or more of build-up. This attitude gets me branded a Scrooge by some of my more festively-minded friends. “It’s all just an excuse to make more money,” I’ll say, realising even as I do so that I sound like a Grinch-spirited meanie.
Here in Birmingham, the German Christmas Market sprang up in mid-November, ensuring crowds will be swilling beer and gluhwein every evening and weekend from now until the New Year (and infuriating any local trying to navigate through town after work). I heard “All I Want For Christmas Is You” while shopping for swimwear for a winter break in October. But this year, I’m looking at the Christmas countdown in a slightly different way.
2018 has been rough, to say the least. Every week brings with it news of a humanitarian crisis, and the fallout from 2016’s EU Referendum has got us all feeling like we’re living on a precipice. So is it any wonder that people want somewhere to turn in the coldest, darkest, most depressing portion of the year where they can feel a little joy? After all, there’s something innately comforting about the reliable rituals of this time of year; the taste of mince pies and sound of Christmas carols have the power to transport us back to our childhoods, when we didn’t have to worry about paying rent or climate change.
Of course, corporations know this, which is why the shopping season edges forward each year. And I maintain that a significant amount of Christmas-branded products are utter tat (who on earth is buying “winter spice” scented toilet cleaner?!). But just because I’m a sourpuss who has to find everything problematic, doesn’t mean everyone else has to be.
We’ll have all of January to be cold and miserable together, so let’s not begrudge anyone their enjoyment of Christmas, no matter how corny or commercial. If somebody you know likes to put up their tree and decorations before December, let them have their fun. Gorge on mince pies now, because you’ll have ten months without them. And enjoy the party season — it’s the one time of year you can get away with almost anything.
Because really, who doesn’t love a bit of Mariah Carey and George Michael?