When Should the Christmas Season Start?
Written by Alejandro Neufeld
Growing up in the United States, the holiday season would start in October with Halloween, continue into November with Thanksgiving, and then culminate with Christmas and New Year’s Eve in December. It made sense, and each holiday flowed nicely into the other as the weather got colder. You absolutely did not set up your Christmas tree before December 1st, and no Christmas music or lights were seen or heard before December either. October was about Halloween and the onset of Autumn, but the anticipation for the holiday season started to shine through. November was all about Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and football. In November, the holiday anticipation turned into excitement as the weather got colder, and corporations started their ‘way too early’ Christmas ad campaigns. Then, in December, an explosion of holiday cheer wrapped up in mistletoe and candy canes swept over everyone in a frenetic wave that peaked at Christmas and finally began to slow down as the New Year was rung in. That was my reality for 16 years, and then my family relocated to Alberta.
Call me misinformed or just plain stupid, but I had no idea that Thanksgiving in Canada was in October, and I was shocked that we got a day off from school on a random Monday. Thanksgiving in the United States is on the 4th Thursday of November, and my impressionable brain thought that every country in North America celebrated Thanksgiving on this day. I was mistaken, and in the 5 years that I have lived here in Alberta, every holiday season has felt disjointed and abrupt. Since Thanksgiving comes before Halloween in Canada, you will see Christmas trees and lights and maybe even hear Mariah Carey while surfing through radio stations in the first week of November. This was all a culture shock to me when I first moved here, and that was the first year that Christmas seemed to drag on forever. Now that could simply be nostalgia making Christmases from my childhood better than they were, but it felt weird to be looking forward to the end of the Christmas season.
As I have spent more holiday seasons here in Canada, I have figured out why Christmas is turning into a chore. Of course, the economy has a role to play in this, with hyperinflation causing headaches for many who are forced to cut costs on everyday things just to afford gifts for their family and friends. Christmas also begins to feel more artificial with age, as corporations use it to squeeze as much money out of consumers as they can, and the fear of missing out on the latest Christmas trend or toy makes people do very unappealing and unbecoming things. Just look up “Black Friday fights” on YouTube or TikTok to see how crazy the holidays can make people. These factors are saddening and can make one feel like there is no way to fix the apathy we feel during this time of year. It has gotten to the point where some people are convinced that Christmas will simply decay away into a shell of the warmth and joy that it brought us as kids. But my solution to this disillusionment regarding the Advent season is to hold off on all the decorating and music and Santa and his reindeer until at least the first week of December.
Just think about it. If you start listening to the top Christmas playlist on Spotify in November, you will have listened to every good Christmas song at least once before December even rolls around. When December does come, and you hear Christmas songs in every store, commercial, or on the radio, you will already be tired of those songs. The same goes for Christmas movies, if you binge-watch the Home Alone movies during reading week, you probably will not want to watch those movies again in December when your friends want to have a Christmas movie marathon. It is a fact of life that things are usually not as fun or memorable as you continue to do them. In Psychology, this is called tolerance, and while the term is used to explain why drug users need higher and higher doses to get the desired effects from a substance, the same principles apply to Christmas. The first time you watched Home Alone, it was the funniest Christmas movie of all time to you, but now, while it may draw some laughs and get you mildly into the holiday spirit; you notice that this happiness wears off quickly. You need to find something else Christmas-related to watch or do, and the cycle continues until you have done every Christmas activity, and it is not even December 10th yet. I experienced this phenomenon recently when I attended a gingerbread house-making event with friends in the middle of November. It was fun at first, but then I just began to think of how messy gingerbread is and how I could go a whole year without eating gingerbread again; it was also not encouraging that the house I built immediately collapsed. For a split second, I thought that was an omen of how this Christmas was going to go, but hopefully, I am wrong.
All of this worry and stress can be avoided if we all come to an unofficial but mutual agreement that sets a date for when the Christmas season begins. Here are my criteria for this agreement. The date cannot be before December, and that is it. I am fine if this day is December 1st at 12 AM, as long as it is in December. By pushing the day when we begin to get into the Christmas rush and start preparations for all the jolliness back a few weeks, we drastically lower our chances of developing a tolerance to all of the things that Christmas entails. Because on their own, in an isolated setting; Christmas music, movies, presents, and food are good things that bring us together and remind us of the joy and camaraderie that is important in life. But remember the old adage your grandma told you:
“Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.”
Just as we try (most of the time) to drink in moderation, we should also moderate when we hop on the Christmas train. Remember that the Polar Express only picked up passengers on Christmas Eve, so our own Christmas trains can wait while we try to finish off this first semester strong.