Bah! Humbug, Baby

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By Rose Inglis (she/her)

Let me set the scene: it’s October 29th, I’m sprinting down Asda’s seasonal aisle, on a strict time schedule between work and the party, and my face falls as I see the scattered remains of the Halloween decor I so desperately sought. These remains on the shelves consist of a few limp plastic swords and some staring rubber masks. Neither will do for a last minute get up.  Disappointed, I turn to the other side of the aisle to be met with the fully stocked, sparkling Christmas display ­- a warm embrace to comfort those crestfallen shoppers who missed out on the last of the pumpkins and witches’ hats. Some would be thrilled by this demonstration of Christmas, only 2 months away. However, what I felt was slight irritation. I’m no Scrooge, but I might be old fashioned in my Christmas traditions.

Now, I love Christmas, I do. I love glitter, I love cheer, I love sparkly lights and overpriced hot chocolate, and I adore the film Nativity as much as any other jolly soul. However, compared to others, this love of a classical Christmas no longer seems sufficient. My opinions make me a Grinch in the eyes of Christmas worshippers. But what is so terrible? That I believe the decorations should go up no sooner than December 12th?  That they should be removed by the twelfth day of Christmas? That forcing Christmas cheer down our throats will only lead us to reject the festive season? However, I feel increasingly alone in my opinions, and maybe I should just embrace the early Christmas cheer. Or perhaps the craze of Santa Claus is darker than it seems. 

Firstly, in my quest to find the true cause of the increasing Christmas fever, I want to explore why I can’t hop aboard the Christmas sleigh like so many others. As someone who isn’t religious, and whose relationship with whatever divine entity she might believe in is very separate to Christmas, I feel no deep spiritual connection to the day. However, given the fact that only 4% of Britons feel a religious connection to Christmas[1], I don’t think this is the sole cause of my Grinch-like nature. Perhaps as an only child who had no siblings to wait with for Santa, and as the daughter of separated parents whose Christmas is split and shared, I find the endless family cheer and forced enjoyment of Christmas slightly suffocating. Yet again, I know countless people whose Christmases are similar, and many of them don their Santa hats by November 1st. So why is it that the rest of the nation seems so eager for the festive season to arrive, and not me?

There are many theoretical explanations as to why Christmas is now being celebrated as soon as the skeletons are put away, the most prominent being capitalism, commercialisation, and a desperate desire to seek good in the world. It’s an excuse to be as extravagant as we always wish to be, but in the name of Yuletide and Christmas joy. Who doesn’t love copious amounts of sugar, sparkly things and cheer? But the rest of the year we have to fall in line. We feel we need permission to tap into our childlike sense of joy and wonder. It’s no surprise, then, that each month presents some reason to party and gather; we have Easter, Valentine’s Day, Bonfire Night, and even the 4th of July and Thanksgiving are now celebrated in the UK as we try to fill the long summer gap devoid of any national celebration.  Indeed, this raises an important point about the effect of Americanisation on our Christmas celebrations. Despite the rising disillusionment with American politics and culture, we cannot help but be influenced by their spectacularly excessive celebratory traditions. This larger-than-life, otherworldly lifestyle that we picture for those in the US is something we still secretly crave, a seed planted by the American dream of the 50s which has grown and dug its roots deep. Prom, trick-or-treating and Black Friday sales have all been adopted from American culture; Christmas is no different. 

So, while the Americans with their 10-foot Christmas trees and inflatable snowmen are undoubtedly part of our new Christmas obsession, the fact that the adoption of American traditions in the UK has often been driven by the economic advantages offered by Black Friday sales and Christmas decorations, leads me to believe capitalism and consumerism may be the prime culprits for my Grinch-ness. These companies play on our need for joy and cheer, and present it to us in glittering boxes, tied up with string (priced at an 80% markup, of course).  Christmas starting early is a call to spend money, and a reminder that happiness, acceptance, and love comes at a cost, leading consumers to buy presents months in advance to get their hands on popular items that will fly off the shelves come November. This expectation of gifts and monetary sacrifice is so embedded with the start of the Christmas season, that it takes away its purity, and is perhaps the main reason why I stubbornly reject the hanging of baubles in shopping aisles before the ghosts of Halloween have vacated our cities. 

Despite these clear connections to the dark world of capitalism, in some ways I wonder why Christmas in November causes me such frustration, and to roll my eyes and quickly scroll past Instagram posts of early Christmas shopping. Secretly I’m jealous of those whose yuletide joy can extend from the sunset of Halloween night to the sound of the drummers on the twelfth day of Christmas. Why can’t the pangs of excitement I feel at the sound of Christmas music, at frosty days and darkening evenings lit by twinkling strings of light be as intensified? My only conclusion is that the forced nature and monetary association of Christmas now disconnect me from that special sense of wonder. We all want a taste of magic so we drag the suspense on longer to fill the void of our mundane day-to-day lives, but the hole cannot be filled by presents, baubles and mulled wine. Instead, we should cherish Christmas, and savour it, and spend the rest of the year finding joy in every other aspect of our lives, not just when we feel we have permission.

[1] Dinic, M. (2020). The YOUGOV Study on Christianity in Britain. YouGov Online [Accessed 10 November 2021]


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