Will it soon be Christmas every day?

Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 00:00

Q Is Christmas getting earlier and earlier every year?Today is December 8th, which for decades marked the traditional start date of the Christmas shopping season. These days, however, the date feels like a mere marker halfway through a festive shopping marathon, with another few weeks to come.

With every passing year, it seems, we get to bemoan the fact that Christmas is starting earlier and earlier – but is the season of Christmas consumption actually starting earlier?

In the US, the traditional starting bell for Christmas shopping is so-called Black Friday, the one-day sale that takes place after Thanksgiving. This year, many sales started on Thanksgiving itself, prompting comedian Jon Stewart to quip “Christmas is so big now, it’s eating other holidays!”

And it’s not just Thanksgiving – it’s not uncommon to see Christmas decorations jostling for shelf space alongside Halloween costumes in mid-October. Even in Germany, home of the charming Christmas market, many are bemoaning how many of the Weihnachtsmärkte are opening in late November now rather than December 1st, as has long been tradition.

But Brown Thomas was ahead of that curve, opening its Christmas shop on August 31st, to many raised eyebrows and cries of sacrilege.

“Like everything we do, we judge it on sales,” said Brown Thomas managing director Stephen Sealey.

“In fairness, those early customers might be hotels or interior designers, looking to place orders at that point.

“There are mixed reactions. Some people will complain, but many will then take a look around and walk out with some baubles or decorations.”

According to Sealey, the real Christmas shopping season begins five to six weeks before December 25th and can depend on the day of the week on which it falls.

The same schedule goes for the festive street lighting. For the past four years Dublin’s Christmas illuminations have been co-ordinated and operated by the Dublin Business Improvement District. Its chief executive, Richard Guiney, says it begins installing the lights at the beginning of November and starts to light them on a staggered basis from mid-November.

“We have no intention of bringing it back any earlier,” said Guiney.

“Perhaps people’s perception that it is starting earlier is because there are more streets now illuminated. In the four years BID have been involved, the number of streets with Christmas lights has gone from three streets to over 30 streets.”

On O’Connell Street, where the illuminations are still the purview of Dublin City Council, the tree-lighting ceremony took place on November 25th, in line with previous years.

On the whole, then, while certain outliers might throw up unseasonally early tinsel and baubles from October, the Christmas shopping season reliably occupies a six-week period from mid-November. Mark it in your diaries, just in case that changes.