Love It or Hate It, Christmas Creep is Everywhere


Evelyn Oravez

Christmas displays, which go up around mid-late November, can be found all around the area.Christmas displays, which go up around mid-late November, can be found all around the area.

An ad from 1885 by Wilhite and Wilhite promoting holiday shopping in early November.

Every year Christmas starts sooner. What used to be a post-Thanksgiving affair has in many places become simply post-summer, with many retailers opening their Christmas displays and starting their holiday tunes in late September and early October. This is the phenomenon known in the marketing industry as “Christmas creep.” Marketers look for as many ways as they can to maximize holiday sales, and the easiest way for them to do so is to push the shopping season as far forward as possible to maximize shopping time. The phenomenon has been going on since the late 1800s, when ads would promote the idea of Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. There is no doubt that Christmas creep is a strong marketing tool, but is it really in our best interest to let the holiday season start this early?


The problem with Christmas creep isn’t just that stores get overwhelmed with holiday merchandise. The early holiday season sneaks its way into other areas of life as well. The Hallmark channel started their “Countdown to Christmas” on October 24th this year, playing Christmas movies every day for two months straight. Christmas music starts even sooner, with everyone from radio stations to next-door neighbors starting up the holiday tunes in early October. Holiday lights are slightly better, most don’t get put up until after Halloween, but it’s still significantly far from Christmas. Once September starts, the average consumer can expect to be flooded with Christmas memorabilia everywhere they go. This, understandably, can make a lot of people upset. In a study done by Kit Yarrow, professor of marketing and psychology at Golden Gate University, she found that people had extreme reactions, often including anger and panic, to seeing Christmas trees before Halloween. “The fact that people do care means something deep is going on,” she says. A 2011 Consumer Reports survey agrees with her, finding that 23% of Americans dread holiday music when it’s played before December. 

At nighttime, festive holiday lights and decorations can be spotted all over town.

Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration and family. The songs are joyous and cheerful, while trees and decorations are colorful and bright, evoking thoughts of warmth and happiness. When the Christmas season is pushed so early, however, it can make people sick and tired of hearing holiday tunes and seeing decorated houses, which defeats the whole purpose of the holidays. Victoria Williamson, a psychological researcher at Goldsmiths University of London, told NBC News that, “at first people like holiday music a bit, then they like it more and more until it hits a peak. Then it’s too much.” The commercial Christmas season can be overwhelming, and if it goes on for too long it can even make people start to dread the winter holidays. 

Although the winter holidays are great, many feel that the Christmas season starts too soon. For WMC sophomore Anna Vrettos, Christmas is a season to enjoy her favorite holiday. However, she says that “it takes the joy out of celebrating when companies have been pushing it on you for such an extended period.” She adds that “if companies waited a little longer, people would look forward to the holidays more instead of feeling stressed or overwhelmed about decorating [and] preparing.” This is a sentiment shared by many. Even for people like Anna who enjoy Christmas over every other holiday, the commercial Christmas season can feel overwhelming. A time that should be spent joyous and warm is instead transformed into a rush to decorate, bake, and prepare for Christmas as early as possible. Instead of the current Christmas season, a holiday stretched out over three months, Anna suggests a new time to start the season. “I think a good time to start marketing is a few days before Thanksgiving so people hear about it for Black Friday, when a lot of people begin Christmas shopping,” she says. Although this might seem like a far cry from the normal months of the Christmas season, and companies would likely experience less of a holiday shopping boom, it is a good plan to alleviate holiday-related stress while still giving people time to get their Christmas shopping done.

In the case of Christmas creep, the stress and overwhelming annoyance that many feel at the hands of Christmas music in October far outweigh the corporate gains. Although an elongated Christmas season sounds good in concept, it’s an idea that is better left in the past.