It’s started. If you’re wondering what “it” is, take a good look around. It might barely be mid-November, but it’s well and truly here. Tins of Quality Street have been stacked high in supermarket doorways, John Lewis’s much anticipated Christmas advert has officially dropped, and all over the country wooden shacks have been erected in city centres and adorned with artificial spruce and plastic candy canes.
It arrives bigger, louder and earlier every year, the sparklers lit on Bonfire Night barely fizzled out before we can feel it being rammed into our psyche. Christmas is coming, so buy things, more things. You can never have enough things.
Until a few years ago the extravagant gift giving was reserved for Christmas Day, but along with President Donald Trump, Snapchat, and the rise of fake news, the 2010s can be credited with transforming Christmas into a six-week splurge-fest.
It started a few years ago with advent calendars. As if starting the morning with a sneaky pre-breakfast morsel of chocolate wasn’t good enough, in the past couple of years capitalism has introduced a new trend, one of miniature beauty products and luxury cheeses hidden tantalisingly behind tiny cardboard doors.
Now, pretty much every large retailer you can name has its own version. Lego has several. Whether kids love Harry Potter, Star Wars or the classic Lego City sets, the Danish toymaker has it covered, and at roughly £20 a pop parents are no doubt feeling the pressure.
Adult versions are even more decadent. John Lewis’s £150 offering is hailed as one of the best on the market, while last month Tiffany & Co announced the launch of its own limited edition calendar – with a modest price tag of £104,000.
Then there are Christmas Eve boxes. For those who are unfamiliar with the relatively new fad, Christmas Eve boxes are hailed as the perfect way to get little ones in the mood for Christmas – as if kids ever need help with that. The boxes are usually filled with a new pair of pyjamas, a festive-themed book or DVD, a sachet of hot chocolate, sweets, and little bags of reindeer food.
At the risk of sounding utterly miserable, isn’t it all just a bit much? At this rate we’re well on the way to conditioning kids into thinking every day in December warrants the unwrapping of a new thing.
For children, there’s enough magic in Christmas. There’s magic in the age-old tradition of leaving a mince pie and a carrot by the fireplace. There’s magic in writing out Christmas cards and waiting at the window for the first sign of snow. And for adults there’s magic in having a festive drink with the friends you don’t get to see enough of, and taking a few days off work when the days are so dark.
It doesn’t take 24 tiny pieces of plastic, a piece of jewellery for every day of the month, or dozens of miniature bottles of overpriced whiskey to help people get into the Christmas spirit.
If you want to celebrate Advent properly, a good place to start is simply by ignoring it all. Happiness doesn’t come from buying and owning, it comes from giving and helping. Capitalism doesn’t want you to know it, but that’s always good enough.