PUBLISHED IN THE HERALD NOVEMBER 2018
“Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s…”
Hold on a second. Christmas is coming? How can that be, it was only Halloween a few days ago. Yet there it is, all around, the irrefutable evidence: Christmas ads on the telly, Christmas offers in the shops, Christmas catalogues with your supermarket shopping.
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Will I say it a few more times, just so the word really sticks in your mind?
It’s mostly to do with sales and business, you will have noticed. For every one human being asking, “Well, have you any plans for the Christmas?”, you’ll encounter ten thousand adverts for things you don’t really want or need to buy.
They call this phenomenon “Christmas Creep”. That sounds like it could the main character from a festive-themed horror movie – possible one about a weirdo who stalks cheerleaders while pairing his customary trench-coat with a fetching Santa hat and “hilarious” Christmas jumper.
In reality, it’s something even more horrifying: the rapacious, all-devouring monster that is consumerism.
Oh, look, I know this is an annual complaint. “It seems to be coming earlier every year,” we moan. “It’s lost all meaning now,” we wail. “They’ll be selling crackers and turkeys in March before we know it,” we hyperbolically predict.
And it’s not a new thing, despite what everyone assumes. I seem to remember, in my childhood, ads for toys running on children’s telly in November, if not even October.
Probably, if you go back far enough in time, the people of 1st century AD Judea were giving out about how the star which announced Jesus’ birth was appearing earlier in the eastern sky every year, and they were sick of the local market giving it the hard-sell on discounted frankincense and myrrh. (“A perfect luxury gift for the person who has everything!”)
I even understand why shops push all this stuff at us for such a long period. Eh, it’s to make money. Obviously. That’s what shops do; it’s the entire raison d’être of free-market capitalism, sure. Not saying I like it, but I do at least understand it.
What I don’t understand are those folks who put up Christmas decorations immediately after the clock strikes midnight on November 1st. Now, this isn’t some wearying comment on tastes in interior design or anything – it’s far more simple, and profound than that.
Do they not get really sick of looking at Christmas decorations for two full months (plus change, as these people always insist on leaving it all up until at least the seventh day of January)? That’s a sixth of the entire year that you’re sitting there, surrounded by shiny baubles, green tinsel, Nutcracker figurines and amusingly-large stockings.
I don’t mind Yuletide decorations too much, generally speaking. They make our cities and towns look nicer for a while during the most hellish parts of winter. They make standalone houses stand out, beacons of light in the darkness.
They’re cheery and cheering; they remind us of childhood and provide a sweet little link between the generations. It’s pleasant to bring out the old bits and bobs that you’ve saved from your own past, showing them to the children, explaining where they came from or what they mean.
But two months of eyeballing the angel on top of the tree, and being eyeballed in turn by the Santa on top of the telly? Good God. I think I’d go postal if I had to endure that.
Still, I presume these early-adopters don’t mind – well, clearly they don’t, or they wouldn’t be doing this. I also presume that they’re the same people who throw up fake cobwebs and decapitated clown-heads around the middle of September.
They paint the house green and tattoo a shamrock onto their forehead in the third week of January. They order in catering-sized pallets of chocolate eggs and brush up on their catechism a good two months before Easter.
They’ve already booked the holidays for next summer, and the summer after that. Right now they’re searching online for tickets to the 2028 Olympic Games and the series of Garth Brooks of Croke Park concerts provisionally pencilled in for June 2041 (it’ll take that long to get permission from the local residents). You can never be too early with the preparations.
I also (also) presume that such people buy their Christmas gifts ridiculously early. You know, they swagger over with a smug expression sometime in mid-August and declare, “Yep – all the old Christmas shopping done now. Just need to order the Brussel sprouts for 2021 and we’ll be set.”
So, despite the fact that their enthusiasm for Christmas is at a level somewhere between “incomprehensible” and “downright weird”, all those ads currently colonising the telly and billboards are wasted on them. What an irony.