How Early Can You Start Celebrating Christmas?

by Mr B

There's no doubt that Christmas is my favourite time of year. Just the thought of it makes me smile. It's a magical time for the kids (mainly for the wrapping paper) as well as adults (probably more to do with the food, drink and shopping), and although it can be very expensive, it always seems worth it.

Obviously writing a blog for this site makes me think about Christmas a little more than most, and this morning I found myself pondering a question I haven't considered before. How early can you start celebrating Christmas? Obviously you could choose to celebrate Christmas 2023 from Boxing Day 2022.

And now I think about it, we were celebrating the London 2012 Olympics 6 years before the games started. But I suppose I really want to know when I can actually say that I am looking forward to Christmas and have started buying presents without people looking at me like I am a crazed lunatic.

There is a year-round Christmas store in London, just by London Bridge railway station. I have to confess I've never been there, but I wonder how busy they can be for the first 9 months of the year? I like to think that on January 1st they just leave a note on their door that says 'popped out for a few minutes, back in September'. But they are located in the 'must be expensive' Hays Galleria so there has to be enough demand all year round. Who are the typical shoppers who buy decorations in March? I could perhaps understand if London were a small provincial town in a non-Christian country where the only shop bought just five decorations a year. But why they buy them so early in the centre of one of the world's greatest shopping cities is beyond me.

Harrods also strike an early claim to Christmas, when they open their xmas department in the summer. They say they open early because many people around the world want to be able to buy their decorations and other festive paraphenalia when they take their summer holidays in London. I find this really hard to believe, but I can confirm that there actually were people spending money when I first visited. Although not many. To ensure that I was covering this important story in journalistic depth I spoke to one of the customers but he stared at me quizzically. It turned out he didn't speak English, not even enough to say that he didn't speak English. I would have asked someone else, but the department was otherwise empty. Is this a sign that July is too early for Christmas?

November 1st is often considered to be the start of the Christmas season - the Christmas lights start to go up, even if they're not switched on immediately, the non-Christmas shops start to put up their decorations and the the strains of 'Jingle Bells' can be heard in lifts, from buskers and in some cases on hold music to insurance companies. But with only 7 shopping weekends to buy presents for 10-20 people, you need to be pretty committed to get it all done in time, or decide to buy everyone the same gift. Personally I've found that giving 8 year olds and 70 year olds the same Marks and Spencer multi-pack of socks doesn't work.

Adding October would give me a few extra weekends. That would really take the pressure away. It would allow me to wander round the shops before they get too overcrowded, and actually find helpful sales staff who can assist my search for the ultimate present before they turn into zombies. Not literal zombies of course, but you know what I mean - they're so overworked, overstressed and overtired that the most help you can get is someone to point you in a general direction, usually to another member of staff because apparently they have all the answers. Of course they don't and they are also frazzled.

What about September? Based on a few conversations with my friends, starting your Christmas preparations in September is almost as ridiculous as March. So this fails my litmus test of 'not looking like a crazed lunatic'. I suppose I could always prepare in stealth… but actually I do think September is a bit early. It's the month of Back to School, it's the start of the new exciting term for kids. It just doesn't feel very right!

There is, however, one exception to the rule according to my learned friends. If you're planning to go away for the big day, then you absolutely MUST start planning and booking before September, otherwise you'll find all the best places have been snapped up. And I experienced this first hand a few years back when I wanted to take my wife away for a break - not to avoid the big day, but to do it a little differently. I must have looked at 50 hotels trying to get the perfect balance of location, price, amenities and restaurant to ensure that my top five choices were perfect. I took my wife through the list and 4 were accepted. And, yes you guessed it, all four of those hotels were fully booked. As were the next six on my list. We ended up staying at home, and had a great time with the extended family, but I have to admit that on Christmas morning i did wake up and think… maybe we should start planning a little earlier next year?

Mr B is a father of two and writes under a pseudonym to avoid embarrassing them.

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You May Not Know

Sir Henry Cole commissioned the first commercial christmas card in the mid 19th Century. The card was illustrated by John Callcott Horsley and showed a family drinking wine. He sold out of his first 2000 print run.