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Why do we hate it when Christmas starts early?

19:25Ciaran McCormick

It is early October, we are starting to plan our Halloween costumes and yet the shops are already heaving with Christmas cards and gifts. The first lights are starting to pop up around the neighbourhood. People turn to each other and complain that they saw Christmas cards in August this year! It get’s earlier every year.



But why do we all agree that this is a problem? Some people argue that Christmas has drifted away from its Christian message, itself a departure from its pagan origins in the winter solstice. However, I believe the answer to why we hate Christmas in October is explained by why this is the most enjoyable and special holiday of the year in the first place.

Buying Christmas vs experiencing Christmas

When Christmas starts early, it drags out the materialistic side. The presents and gift-giving is actually one of the least meaningful parts of the holiday season, yet it dominates the high street and advertising. We actually enjoy the experiences that Christmas brings far more. In the fascinating book ‘Happy Money’, the authors argue that we should use our wallets to buy experiences rather than material ‘stuff’. The pleasures of things diminish rapidly, whereas life experiences make us even happier over time.


Retailers have realised this and now try to sell us the emotions of the holiday season rather than their products. This is why John Lewis adverts are successful; they tap into the joy of family, emotions and togetherness rather than kitchen gadgets, clothes and wardrobes, even though that is the intended eventual destination.

What are these experiences that we value at Christmas? It is about spending time with family, however challenging this can sometimes be. Shopping together can be an experience rather than a material pursuit, especially if it is done at a festive market with mulled wine, crafts and friends.

The shared laughter, cheerfulness and memories will endure longer than any material gifts you receive. Cooking, sharing and eating food can be another particularly potent part of the Christmas experience. This is also intensely linked with our nostalgia for our childhood experiences.

The magic of Christmas as a child is really special for most people. We have powerful memories of listening to our favourite festive song, overindulging in food we couldn’t have for the rest of the year and writing letters to Santa. A materialistic holiday dragged out over months by retailers trying to make the most of the ‘golden quarter’ of shopping makes us long for the simpler times when we experienced Christmas rather than bought it.

Fleeting Christmas magic vs endless Christmas hell

There is a second major reason why we hate it when Christmas seems to start earlier each year. Whilst the experiences of the festive season last longer than material things like presents, even these can lose their cheer after a while. A four month Christmas build-up overexposes us to these experiences. By the day itself, you have heard your favourite song dozens of times, eaten so many mince pies that they become a gloopy chore and eaten a dozen turkey dinners or nut roasts with all your friends, colleagues and family.

The rituals of Christmas, which are the same virtually every year, only work if they are short-lived. It is a fine art to have a tree and decorations up in the house for the right number of days, or otherwise your eyes would start to vomit red and gold. Advent calendars only start in December, else we would be sick of peeling back each panel, eating cheap chocolate and ignoring the picture inside.

Whilst Wizzard may ‘wish it could be Christmas everyday’, this would actually be a living hell. In the end, it all goes back to supply and demand. Withold holiday happiness for most of the year and we really enjoy it when we are given it for just a couple of weeks. Otherwise, months of Christmas just become exhausting. Imagine if Valentine’s Day started in November, or Easter in January. Although, hold that thought, because they probably do somewhere.

Holiday vs holiday season

The final reason why we hate the first signs of tinsel during autumn is one that sadly does not apply to everyone, but is important nonetheless. Part of the joy of Christmas, is that a lot of people get to enjoy some time away from work or school. It is one of the rare times of year that most people get holiday at the same time and it offers a great opportunity to get together with people you might not otherwise get to see.

True, not everyone does get to enjoy time off during Christmas. I feel a lot of sympathy for hardworking doctors and nurses, taxi drivers, pub workers and all the other people for whom this is one of their busiest and most stressful times of year. However, for most people, the holiday season is exactly that.

This means that whilst we are still at work, Christmas is a bit of a chore that we can’t properly relax and enjoy. Whether that is rush-buying presents on lunch breaks or hearing Christmas carols on your commute, these things can’t truly be savoured until you are away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Time off work at Christmas takes on a mystique all of its own. It has a build-up and excitement that isn’t felt before any other period of holiday. This is the time when we really enjoy festivities and it is quite sour to see Christmas presents in the shops when you still have months of work to overcome before you can finally savour it.

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