Christmas BBQDid you go away during the summer, or did you have the media invention of a ‘staycation’? Does the prospect of the weeks stretching ahead until the next break from the treadmill fill you with horror?

Do not despair! I bring you glad tidings of great joy! Yes, the August Bank Holiday has come and gone so now the hallowed ground (or should I say aisles) of Tesco; Sainsbury’s and the like, are already being narrowed as extra shelves are squeezed in ready for the run up to the next great Festival.

Yes, Christmas is just 115 days from the August Bank Holiday and if you are concerned by the lack of time to stock up ready for the great Christmas siege, let me put your mind at rest.

Tesco start filling the shelves from early September. When the ‘back to school’ products diminish, the spaces are filled with the initial flurry of Christmas goodies. Their spokesperson said, “Like all other retailers, we introduce festive goods several weeks before the holiday period. This is so our customers have the choice to buy some of their Christmas items early if they want to. I’m sure you’ll agree that Christmas can be a very expensive time of year and we like to give our customers the opportunity to spread the cost.”

Sainsbury’s has a similar strategy; plug the gap with a few (non) seasonal lines.

But it’s not just the supermarket giants, Rochdale council put their Christmas lights up in Milnrow at the beginning of August. A spokesman said: “We’re getting into the festive spirit early this year! Festive lights will be installed across the borough by 19 October”.

Selfridges in London set up their Christmas store earlier than ever at the beginning of August. A store spokeswoman said: “We wouldn’t launch it now unless we thought there was a market for it.” But the shoppers were less impressed by the store’s hijacking of the season.

Yes, the season of good will, when the goose gets fat and the turkey unwittingly gobbles an extra portion, is no longer contained within a more than reasonable six week slot that I knew as a child.

Christmas ShelvesWhilst scouring the shelves in Tesco’s recently for swimming trunks, my sons nudged me in that annoying ‘you have to look now’ way that children have. But we were stunned to see rows of Christmas cards and crackers next to remaining rows of brightly coloured beach towels and bags. The shop assistant agreed with us and said she hated having to look at the Christmas stock every day, but said it’s a case of “if we don’t, someone else will”.

But just when did it become the norm to start Christmas sales the moment the children were back at school? Is it a question of the chicken (or should I say goose) or the egg? Did the supermarkets start it by supplying everything we could possibly want for an early Christmas shopping experience or was it our insatiable desire to get into the festive spirit as soon as the wind break and UV proof pop-up tent (has anyone worked out how to put those things back in their little bags?) were put into the far corner of the shed behind the lawn mower; that was answered by the supermarkets who are never one to miss an opportunity?

One group of despots known as the ‘Movement for the Containment of Christmas’ took it upon themselves to punish a number of charity shops for selling Christmas cards early. The media has described them as ‘commandos’ and ‘vigilantes’, bent on stopping the commercialisation of the great Christian celebration. I do sympathise with their cause; but gluing door locks? Maybe their time would be better spent canvassing public opinion to petition the supermarket chains.

But is it like the weather of our childhoods when the summer was warm and the winter cold? Was it really like that, or like so many things we remember; imagined? Has Christmas shopping always been there from the moment we hung up our soggy swimsuits and consigned our flip flops to the back of the cupboard?

I reckon there has been a management buy-out of the extravaganza; they out-sourced the whole thing; rebranded and re-sold it under the pretence of ‘buy early to save’or ‘buy now before it sells out’. With the not so distant memory of a soggy grey British summer, Father wants us to think about bright white crisp snow covered hills, a crackling fire burning in the grate, Bing crooning in the background and a box of Quality Street on the side.

I say ‘bah humbug’ to the lot of them, but then Scrooge was a miserly old man who penny pinched and was cruel to his staff. So come to think of it, perhaps he has more in common with our commercial saviours than I first thought.

I for one will continue to refuse to buy one single item of Christmas fayre until at least the end of November.

But I must away, my sons are starting to pour the glass of sherry and write their letters and the post man has arrived with a large box I have been expecting.

Noël Noël; No Way; Oh Well

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