My flatmates and I are currently making a rather crucial collective decision. The new year has well and truly begun, so there is a pristinely white chore rota securely blue-tacked to the kitchen cupboard and two of us are obsessively hitting the gym whilst the others fulfill their aspirations to have organised lives. The whole flat has been deep-cleaned, and we even plucked up the courage to bin our beloved (and long beleagered) basil plant that has been quietly dying on the windowsill since we moved in.
But there remains the one contentious issue: the christmas tree.
Not wishing to sound remotely Scrooge-like, but it is February, and I would be more than happy to take it down. Unfortunately, I am plagued by the classic student malady that is pure laziness. My flatmates, whilst being equally lazy, have chosen to justify its continued presence with notions of its being ‘atmospheric’ and promises that it will be updated to suit the season… I am a tad skeptical, but outvoted. It seems that for now, the christmas tree is here to stay.
All of this brought to mind an article I wrote in November about the premature arrival of Christmas in Edinburgh, which – as poor timing would have it – I chose not to run as a feature in the Student newspaper at the time. However, unfortunately for any poor soul reading this, I cannot sleep, and hence have decided that I might as well post it on my ‘wee blog’ as my oh-so-Scottish flatmates would call it. It is slightly out of season now, but then so is the christmas tree in my living room….
Jingle all the way?
Walking through Edinburgh, it seems that Christmas festivity is starting earlier every year. An endless array of Christmas decorations and seasonal gifts fill the shops, and Christmas trees fill the windows of hotels and restaurants by late Autumn. The 40 foot Jenners’ Christmas tree had graced its balconies by the first weekend of November and the Harvey Nichols festive window display had appeared before Halloween. Starbucks have released their festive drinks again, and it is almost impossible not to have noticed the presence of tacky Santa mugs and other such merchandise steadily permeating the old student haunt of Poundland. And of course we’ve known that ‘holidays are coming’ since Coca Cola released its iconic Christmas advert on November 12th…
As students, the relatively early coming of Christmas cheer can work quite well for us. The festivities starting in late November, such as the Christmas light switch-on and opening of the German Christmas markets on Thursday, can help us to start to enjoy the season before our exams rudely interrupt festivity in December. Moreover, we are given the opportunity to celebrate in Edinburgh with our friends and flatmates before we all head home for the holidays immediately after our last exam. Last year, for example, my friends and I had our own ‘Christmas Day’ on December 15th.
However, in other respects, the premature arrival of Christmas – and especially Christmas advertising – is arguably quite ridiculous. How can it really be necessary for Christmas stock and advertising to bombard the high street before Halloween? Some cases are even more extreme: it has even been rumoured that some supermarkets begin to stock and sell mince pies, that quintessentially Christmassy dessert, as early as August.
Moreover, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) receives a ‘steady flurry of complaints from irritated and disenchanted consumers’ who object to the premature appearance – or rather takeover – of Christmas adverts. 2009 saw a record number of complaints. However, the ASA maintains that whilst some people may find this frustrating, “this is not an area we regulate”, as decision regarding when to release Christmas marketing remains with the individual advertisers. The ASA state that they “cannot regulate when Christmas is advertised but it can ensure that if consumers believe a seasonal advertisement is misleading, offensive or harmful that the matter is looked into. Hopefully the vast majority of advertising this Christmas will avoid upsetting the public and help get the festive season in full swing”.
It is pretty inevitable that businesses will see the commercial benefits of the Christmas season, but how necessary is it to advertise so far in advance? Does a hotel honestly believe that its customers will appreciate having the lobby filled with Christmas trees in November? Doesn’t it put pressure on us financially? Fiona Hayle, from the Finance and Leasing Association stated that “Christmas can be a tough time”. This obviously should not be the case, but with overpriced ‘Christmassy-fied’ items invading the shelves from October, it does seem that the costs could soon add up, making us more desperate than ever for that next loan instalment in January.
The problem is that all the early hype – and how annoyed it makes us – really does detract from the true meaning of Christmas. In the midst of the commercial clamouring, let’s not lose sight of what it’s really all about, and let the ‘bah humbug’ overtake the Christmas cheer when the time is right. Premature or not, with the light switch-on on Thursday, the abundance of festive shoppers on Princes Street and the commencement of carol services when December arrives next week, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
(Or at least it was when I wrote this. Now it just looks as though we are too lazy to take down our tree. Appearances can be deceiving, but in this case, I would say not.)