Christmas: for decades our TV screens, Facebook feeds, and shopping malls have been inundated with festive propaganda. “Look forward to Christmas” we are told, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” sing the tannoy systems. We should all be looking forward to that one day in the year when we get to reunite with family, open presents and gorge ourselves on food we wouldn’t think of eating the rest of the year. Sounds like a good time, doesn’t it?
But what if I told you that Christmas was sinister? That it is threatening to bring down civilisation itself? Don’t turn that dial.
Sure, you might have heard the conservative pundits that cry “War on Christmas!” whenever somebody says “Happy Holidays” and acknowledges that other religions and Atheists exist, or try to tell you that we are losing our values and “forgetting the meaning of Christmas” when Nativity scenes start disappearing from Christmas card packs (never mind that much of Christmas was nicked wholesale from pre-Christian and secular traditions and has little to do with Jesus’s birth which we’re now led to believe was in entirely the wrong month…).
These people have it wrong. The War on Christmas isn’t heating up, we aren’t fighting Christmas enough! You’ve seen the signs: Christmas decorations and advent calendars before Halloween, Christmas light displays in October, the Coca-Cola advert in mid-November…
Year after year, Santa Claus and his frostbitten legions claim more territory on the calendar away from other equally important Winter holidays like Halloween, Bonfire Night and, uh…Diwali! Further blows were dealt to Halloween this year by the Pumpkin shortage and price hike. At this rate Christmas will be storming May Day Bank Holiday by 2020, and nobody’s doing anything to stop it!
But who’s responsible for this? How did we get into this mess? Who’s to blame?
I did some digging. And while it may be easy to blame the multitude of faceless supermarkets and chain stores and e-commerce sites that seemingly push the tinsel in our faces earlier and earlier every year, the truth is they’re just dogs chasing cars.
The real culprit is YOU.
Well, maybe not you, but someone you know. Studies conducted in the past few years show that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier and earlier in the year, and retailers in turn start their promotions earlier and earlier to catch up with these habits.
For instance, an Asda survey of 5,500 mothers in 2012 revealed that 93% of them had already started buying Christmas gifts before July because they were worried about the cost of festivities. It would seem that the economic pressures felt by many families causes them to spread the cost throughout the year, which sounds sensible enough. However, this early shopping causes retailers to start hyping the season earlier and earlier, resulting in stunts like Argos releasing a “Must-have Toys for Christmas” list in June.
You or your mum might think you’re being clever by “beating the rush” or “getting the shopping sorted before you run out of money this year dear Lord please end this recession”, but you’re also promoting the scourge of Christmas creep. You and the mega-retailers are locked in a downward spiral as you chase after each other for material gain.
The War on Christmas may never be won completely, but there are things we can do to stem the tide and beat old St. Nick back into the month of December and away from Summer, Halloween and Guy Fawkes:
- Resist the temptation of early gift and decoration sales. If it’s being sold before the start of advent then leave it on the shelf.
- Take the money you would have spent on that early gift in July and put it in a savings account instead ready for the Winter.
- Thou shalt not succumb to Black Friday. Those low prices may seem enticing, but really think about what you’re buying. You don’t have to abstain altogether, but think: do you need it, or are you just chasing the deal? Last year I did this and realised I didn’t actually want any of the deals Amazon was trying to push on me.
- If you do buy gifts early, tell nobody what it’s for and lie on surveys. We can’t be giving these retailers ideas. Tell them it’s “for a birthday” (which wouldn’t technically be lying).
- Buy less gifts altogether. I find growing up I wanted less presents and the main focus of Christmas has become having fun with family and the people you love in your life. Instead of amassing piles of random toys and socks throughout the year get one good present that shows care and thoughtfulness.
- Turn off your TV. TV lies. TV shoves Christmas adverts in your face starting from January. Use Netflix instead and avoid the brainwashing onslaught of John Lewis and Coca-Cola adverts repeated every 5 minutes.
The only way we can stop Christmas trees being put up in June is to change our behaviour and make the retailers adapt. We have to send a message that we’ve had it with Christmas creep, and we like the Holiday season to stay in its place at year’s end. I don’t hate Christmas, I’m not a Scrooge or one of those “Bah Humbug” types. However, I do think we’ve lost a lot of what makes that time special, and the early festive push grinds down the enthusiasm I used to have for this time of year.
What we’re really fighting isn’t just a War on Christmas – it’s a battle for our souls, and I hope you’ll join me on the frontline.