Christmas. It’s a wonderful time, isn’t it? For weeks, you drive yourself further and further into willingly enforced bankruptcy in order to consume as much food as possible and buy as many gifts as your bank account will allow. But when should we start this season of gluttony? When is most appropriate for us to start filling our stockings?
For many nowadays, the answer appears to be mid-October. Towards the end of the month, when you’d expect shops to be devoting their stock to Halloween, I saw equal, if not greater, precedence being given towards Christmas, despite it being around one-and-a-half months until the lights in the University were switched on. The Festive season, at least for the retailers, has become a multi-season event; with the winter, which Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere has become synonymous with, serving as but a small cog in this grand, slightly tacky, clock of a festival.
The basic impression one receives is that we should devote the last quarter of the year toward the preparation of a season which has already set aside a 25-day preparation schedule. The purpose of Advent, at least, within the semi-secular contemporary tradition of Christmas, is to prepare you for the onslaught that arrives on the 25th December. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be good enough.
Part of the appeal of Christmas is that it is an event that happens only once a year, and many of the activities, foods, and sights are unique to the event. The Christmas markets are enamouring experiences, but the threat of over-saturation is an extremely plausible one if they begin to early. The same can be applied to all and any Christmas tradition. Let’s say that we, hypothetically, start erecting our trees at the beginning of November. Would the appeal be as strong as it would be if the wait were to be decreased? I doubt it.
Christmas markets are enamouring experiences, but the threat of over-saturation is an extremely plausible one
Alongside this, there are the obvious religious connotations. Now, I must confess that I am an atheist, and so the religious and spiritual impact that arrives with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ does not have a particularly large impact upon my person. However, Christmas is nonetheless a religious holiday. Whilst it has been largely secularised by capitalist ambition, the core principles nevertheless remain at the core of the festival. If we are to celebrate an event that is enshrined within the heart of modern Christianity, and respect the meanings behind it, then we should allow at least some essence to be maintained. Pushing the beginning of the Christmas season further and further away from its climax only helps to accelerate the loss of meaning within the holiday, and only aids in the commercialisation of it and the destruction of its traditional role.
Some experiences are kept brief for a reason. The festive season is popular among so many because of its sharp climb towards an exciting climax. To stretch it beyond its worth would be senseless, and betray the very ideas that it stands for.