In The Red: 'All this festivity does is instil fear in those of us dreading the Christmas shop'
Saturday 25 October 2008
Oh no. My local supermarket has got out the Christmas decorations. Yes, already – the full works. There's the gold tinsel and the tacky wall-hangings; the chocolate coins and the buckets of satsumas – even the odd snowy placard boasting festive discounts. In October! We haven't even had Halloween yet – surely the pumpkins and witches' hats should have gone by the time the reindeer arrive?
Of course, it doesn't stop there. Already I'm receiving emails from well-meaning publicists full of suggestions for "cheap and easy Christmas presents" while family members enquire as to my festive plans and inform me of their desired gifts. And in the meantime the world's financial pundits enthusiastically inform us of precisely how bleak we can expect Yule '08 to be: with banks collapsing left right and centre – not to mention mass redundancies and a sudden lack of credit – we simply can't go frittering away our hard-won cash on stocking-fillers and greetings cards. Oh, doesn't it just fill you with the festive spirit?
But really, what is it with premature Christmas preparations? It's is still two months away for crying out loud. That's eight and a bit weeks, 61 days, 1,464 hours. In other words: miles off. Imagine if every year you started sending out bulletins reminding everyone that your birthday was in two months' time, urging them to get spending in order to find the perfect gift for you. You'd be lucky to get anything at all.
And, really, all that this premature festivity does is instil fear into the hearts of those of us who are dreading the thought of Christmas shopping: the time it will consume, debt that will inevitably be racked up, and the relatives that will unwittingly be forgotten.
Don't get me wrong, I'm no scrooge. I love carol singing, mistletoe and mince pies just as much as the next person. And I like giving people presents. I even like buying some of them, browsing around, um-ing and ah-ing until I've got something spot on. But I can't stand the anxiety, the frantic financial calculations, the bleak feeling of January broke-ness. Being reminded of it all so early is hardly helpful. It certainly doesn't leave me overflowing with goodwill to all mankind. Quite the opposite: it's making me feel mean.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if all of this pre-emptive festivity is bad for stores' business. Of course, the logic behind it is to hurry everyone into buying early, and thereby initiating an extra-long Christmas shopping period. We all know that time equals money, so I suppose the longer everyone spends buying their gifts the more they'll actually splash out – or so goes the conventional wisdom. But start too early and surely it'll be nothing other than off-putting.
If anything, putting Christmas decorations up too early risks lulling us all into a state of cynical complacency to the extent that we just assume the carols playing in the background and the tinsel hanging in the windows are pieces of typical retail over-eagerness, and then entirely forget about shopping until Christmas Eve. In which case the object would be defeated, as we'd only spend a day's worth of cash instead of the intended two months', albeit in a rather desperate, devil-may-care fashion.
But before any of it has to be contemplated, there's the matter of my little sister's 18th birthday. In an especially cruel twist of festive fate, she was born a mere six days before Christmas, meaning that I not only need to get her a present for the 25th, but also an especially impressive coming-of-age gift for the 19th. Which won't be easy – like many teenagers, she's a mystery to anyone over the age of 20: discerning tastes, confusing interests and an alarmingly comprehensive knowledge of Saturday morning television shows.
Still, at least I'm not subject to endless advertising campaigns in her honour. Facebook aside, I might even be able to forget that one.
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