Does Christmas Start Too Early?
It’s the beginning of November and I am already wondering if it is too early to start talking about Christmas. Clearly I decided it wasn’t as I have gone ahead and written this post! As a child of the 70s I was used to Christmas only starting at the beginning of December. I seem to remember that it was very much frowned upon to even mention the C word in November. Shops didn’t tend to have decorations up and not even hint of a Christmas carol until the 1st day of the 12th month had passed. As children we would make fun of any house that had its decorations up, particularly if there was the odd one that did have them up in November (clearly I did not understand the excitement of young children pressuring their parents to get the tree up early!)
You might think that I am going to write a post being all ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas getting earlier, but nothing could be further from the truth. I love Christmas, it’s the best time of the year for me! Over the past few years Christmas has crept further and further into the month of November and in fact this year I even saw decorations in Selfridges back in October. I’ve already heard people complain about the decorations in the shops and the never ending sound of ‘Last Christmas’ and I do understand that it can be irritating if you are not a fan. For me though I can’t think of anything better, there’s something warm and cosy about the Christmas season that just makes me feel happy and content. From putting up the decorations to waiting for the Christmas edition of the Radio Times to come out (some 70s traditions never die) I’m just like a big happy kid.
I’ve been giving it some thought and I think there is a correlation between the earlier start of Christmas and the morale of people in the UK. The past few years have been uncertain in many ways and the impact has been felt by large numbers of people. The political landscape has changed and we have entered into a period of enforced austerity which is affecting more and more people as time goes on. The state of our country is up in the air because of Brexit and the potential impact of the US presidential elections. Add to that continuing developments in countries affected by war and terrorism and displacement of large numbers of refugees and the world seems a pretty bleak place. Is it any wonder that we seize an opportunity to bring a little love and light to the bleak winter months? For many of us Christmas is the highlight of the year, for me personally it is something to look forward to as in these frugal times treats are few and far between.
Starting our Christmas celebrations earlier gives us a focus, it’s a cheerful time of year, for many a time to spend with friends and family, buy each other gifts and generally eat, drink and be merry. Christmas distracts from day to day life and the wider world. I love the feel of this time of year, the music, the cosy nights watching a Christmas film and eating chocolates. Children getting all excited about the visit of Santa, shopping, drinking Baileys. In general people seem happier and kinder (I said in general!), they have a little more time for each other. Little traditions come into play, whether it’s advent calendars, Christmas Eve boxes or having a glass of your favourite tipple whilst wrapping presents or writing cards. I am heavily influenced by the whole schmaltzy side of Christmas and each year I tell myself we will be even more festive than the last year. I blame film and TV for giving me this very perfect idea of Christmas and I even find myself yearning for snow just to set the scene (even though we all know that snow whilst pretty at first can be totally impractical after a couple of days.)
Of course Christmas can also be seen as a really stressful for some and I appreciate that for one reason or another not everyone enjoys the season. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the major reason for starting the build up to Christmas earlier each year is for the benefit of retailers and all of the industries that benefit from the festive season. It would naïve to think that the spirit of Christmas can be divorced from the rise of commercialism in the UK (or indeed other Westernised countries.) I suppose in one way we have to put a positive spin on that and acknowledge that people shopping does help the economy, and God knows our economy needs some help. Hand in hand with this commercialism is the pressure on us to provide the best Christmas possible. Gifts become more expensive, you need to buy enough food to feed thousands and it can seem like a never ending treadmill of shopping, card writing, present wrapping, visiting and eating and drinking. It can be exhausting! Even though I am a big fan of Christmas, there have still been some stressful ones and I have had to readjust my ideas of what makes a great Christmas.
Over the years we have changed how we celebrate Christmas and that for me has helped to keep the excitement and buzz about the whole festive season. Owing to our frugal circumstances we have ‘downsized’ our Christmas and I have to say it’s a lot more enjoyable. We don’t go mad on food shopping and I try to start adding a few little extras each week from November. We buy a few additional treats, but we don’t go overboard. I can never understand those who shop like there is going to be a famine, these days the shops are only closed for one day at the most! One year I really over stocked on treats so we still had things in the cupboards in January and ran out of time to eat them all before they went out of date. Now we only buy enough food for Christmas Day (bearing in mind we have both sets of grandparents and an uncle, so there are 9 of us around the table.) We have also cut back on the number of cards we send out and the presents we buy. It got to the point where I seemed to be sending cards to every single person I had come across in my life and the gifts were getting a bit out of hand too. Now I tend to just buy for children and my two best friends. Every year I vow that I will start stocking up on Christmas gifts in the January sales and carry on through the year so that I am super organised, but it never happens. Partly financial, but also because I think I would feel a little disappointed if I didn’t do some Christmas shopping in December.
I know that for the next few weeks I will hear people complaining about Christmas coming too early, but with all the doom and gloom around at the moment I’m glad of the extra sparkle. Yes, it has become too commercial and it’s not all tinsel and snowflakes, but if you look a little harder you can still find the spirit of Christmas.
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