Every year Christmas comes earlier and earlier. It’s still November yet already the shops are adorned with Santas, bells and shallow things that glitter extending the Christmas period to more than 15% of the year. It really is too much. Too much of the year, too much focus on buying stuff, too much top down braying ubiquity where we all have to take part in the same bar coded extravaganza in exactly the same sterile way.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Christmas as much as the next misanthropic hermit but the ludicrous anarchy of High Street retail has left the rest of us the victim of their out and out Psalms Race. Each retailer trying to out Xmas the next, squeezing the last drop of blood from our credit cards as they try to sell us the mandatory festive cheer. What was once was a special day is now foreshadowed by nearly two months of shonky perfume sales reps until the market is so glutted that more and more of us are contenting ourselves with simply taking the dog for a walk and a leisurely Christmas spliff.
Who needs it?
Now, I’ve been observing your species for some time and have come to the conclusion that I’m not the only one who thinks that one month of pressure selling and guilt trips a year is quite enough. But no matter how many people find the ever advancing Yuletide tide distasteful unless something is done retail competition will continue to drive an escalating mince pie pile up.
“But surely” you say, in your pathetic nasal whine, “there are more important things in life to get irate about?”
I agree. Everyone in the world should only ever worry about one problem in the world at any one time and that problem should be the commonly agreed most intractable, difficult and horrifying problem there is. Until that problem is solved all the others must go entirely ignored. Let’s hope the problems you care about are near the top of the list.
That aside I thought it might be useful to think of ways that we might actually be able to address this issue. Practical steps to ensure that the citizens of this country have some control over their culture rather than letting commercial interests define it for the rest of us.
The first thing to say is that any party that tries to ban Christmas and replace it with a nationalised Winterval gets my vote – but this might be about as electorally appealing as the Jimmy Savile Party so it might be wise to take a more nuanced approach than a state approved gift for every comrade citizen (“Oh, a new shovel! This will increase my productivity by at least 12%! Thank you Comrade Nicholas!”).
So here are my practical suggestions to ensure Christmas does not become a year-long festival of debt;
1. Tinsel tax.
All Christmas-related merchandise, from tinsel, trees, cards and fairy lights will be subject to a substantial, year-round, VAT hike which is exempted in December only. Not only will this increase the cost of pre-emptively decking out your store in Christmas tat it would also serve as a “nudge” to society to say December the first (or whenever we’d like to set it) is the beginning of the Christmas period.
We’d have to exempt advent calenders from this as people will need to buy them before day one. I’m not a monster.
The other side of this of course will be that it would encourage stores (and the rest of us) to either buy long-term, durable decorations that they use every year – making the season more sustainable – as well as prompting people to make their own decorations, moving us away from the current cookie cutter commercialism towards something that looks a little more social.
2. More holidays.
In the US Thanksgiving acts as a welcome brake on Santa’s ever encroaching empire. If we had more holidays throughout the year those national celebrations would act to demarcate what is Christmas time and what is not. What those holidays are should be up for negotiation, there is no obvious act of genocide we’d want to celebrate in a UK version of Thankgiving but a family get together day (no gifts, no cards but, yes, stuffing our faces and going catatonic in front of the telly) seems like a swell idea.
We’d reschedule the annual showing of Spartacus to this day in late November and slap in an extra-long bank holiday weekend to show we mean business. Alternatively we could make Movember an official thing with CBE’s and medals to those with the most phenomenal facial hair. It’s just a thought.
3. Council regulations
Increasingly councils are getting in on the act of the too-early Christmas decorations. This must end forthwith. The pressure is on from local business communities everywhere for councils to help attract custom so let them pass the buck upwards to national legislation that not only forbids street Xmas decoration before December 1st but also drives home the point by having well publicised miserablist campaigns throughout November to undermine any premature evangalisers.
I’m thinking billboards, phone booths, and TV ads promoting worthy campaigns guaranteed to put you off your Christmas dinner. Graphic colon cancer posters perhaps, or a “have you made a will?” campaign showing images of your crying children as their home is repossessed due to your negligence and unexpected demise.
You may think this is a bit thick – but what is the carrot without the stick?
The problem we face is that the market is an anarchy. You can’t appeal to its better judgment or elect a more sensible head of capitalism. Without a willingness to take some sort of control over our culture we’re effectively handing it over to those whose bottom line is their bottom line.
See also Richard Osley on the Christmas hecklers.