Guest opinion: Christmas season starts in November. Deal with it.
For some, ‘Christmas Creep’ is about enjoying holiday music and movies as soon as Halloween is over. Let them do so in peace.
Like clockwork, Mariah Carey was on it. In the early hours of Nov. 1, the singer posted a video on Instagram marking the end of Halloween and the official start of the Christmas season, falling asleep in her ’80s glam rock costume and awakening in holiday-themed pajamas at the stroke of midnight.
In the video, “Santa” calls Ms. Carey’s phone, and she answers immediately. “It’s t-iiiiime!” she exclaims, giddily.
Comments below the post, which has been viewed more than two million times, were overwhelmingly ecstatic. (“YESSSS!” wrote Reese Witherspoon.) A new music video for Ms. Carey’s indelible hit “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” featuring previously unreleased footage, was released the same day, and more than three weeks in it has more than one million views. This month, Ms. Carey will embark on her annual Christmas concert tour and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the song, presumably to crowds of screaming fans who are more than happy to delight in the spirit of the season, even if the turkey feast has yet to commence.
The rest of us are not Mariah Carey. We’re still a week away from Thanksgiving, and should you dare express your unbridled excitement for the return of Christmas music, Christmas trees and Hallmark rom-coms about high-powered, big-city single women who return to their hometown for the holidays and fall in love with a local small-business owner, be prepared: You will be shamed. You will be judged. Your homeowners association will demand that you remove the inflatable snowman from your front yard because it’s “too early.”
I used to be one of those irascible grinches, appalled by the encroachment of an early Christmas. Now I embrace it.
For some of us, marking the Christmas season well before Thanksgiving counters the early-onset winter doldrums and the work-related chaos that usually accompanies the end of the year. My mood annually takes a noticeable dip once the sun begins setting around 4:30 p.m. and it’s too cold to do anything outside except scuttle hurriedly from one building or mode of transportation to another. The arrival of Christmas-themed aesthetics are crucial to maintaining my happiness during the shift between fall and winter.
The instantly recognizable opening notes of Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” are soothing to have on in the background as I scramble to complete my surplus of end-of-the-year tasks at work. Rewatching for the hundredth time, say, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or the delightfully choreographed performance of “Turkey Lurkey Time” (from the Broadway show “Promises, Promises”) at the 1969 Tony Awards makes me temporarily forget how much I hate the weather and makes the darkness a little easier to bear.
I can bask in memories of my childhood, a time when I wasn’t concerned with student loans or the impending death of older family members. It’s a much-needed festive escape.
Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t have to be the only reason to embrace the season early. Some people just don’t see the point in waiting for practical reasons. December can whirl by quickly because of work, travel and an endless parade of holiday parties, and getting a head start on decorations can make the effort it takes to pick out and set up a tree and other festive accouterments seem worth it.
Above all, the Halloween-to-Christmas handoff exists because Thanksgiving’s cultural markers are so lacking. For all its noble intentions, Thanksgiving just can’t compete with the powerful signifiers of Christmas. Its aesthetic roughly translates to a generic notion of “autumn”: pumpkins; brown, orange and red color palettes; harvest baskets. Turkey aside, Thanksgiving’s imagery is all about Native Americans and pilgrims dining together — a watered-down, largely inaccurate interpretation of the holiday’s origins that erases the much darker history surrounding it.
As for movies, there’s no real Thanksgiving canon to speak of — “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” following the misadventures of an executive (Steve Martin) in his quest to make it home in time for dinner with his family, is funny, but it’s an anomaly. (So much so, it seems, that according to Google’s “People also ask …” feature, a lot of us wonder whether it’s actually a Christmas movie.)
The memorable Thanksgiving-related TV specials are just as few and far between: There’s “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” and … that one episode of “WKRP in Cincinnati” where live turkeys are dropped from a helicopter? Even the annual Macy’s parade — which was originally called the “Macy’s Christmas Parade” when it debuted on Nov. 27, 1924 — is awash with Christmas-themed balloons, floats and musical numbers.
And ask someone to come up with a Thanksgiving playlist, and they’ll inevitably resort to songs that have nothing to do with the holiday but just so happen to conjure the idea of food or invoke the phrase “thank you.” It’s no wonder so many of us consider Thanksgiving a pit stop on the sleigh ride to tinsel and ornaments.
I suspect that when people call out others for going all in this time of year, they’re really railing against “Christmas creep,” in which businesses inflict holiday-themed advertising and merchandise on consumers well before most of us have had a chance to buy a Halloween costume. I get it: Retailers’ bold attempts to entice us into spending too much earlier and earlier every year is exactly what Charlie Brown was so anxious about. And to the retail workers forced to hear the same playlist of 15 Christmas songs for two months, my sympathies are with you.
But we shouldn’t put down individuals for hanging those lights up early or live-tweeting their annual viewing of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” on Nov. 10. Let us embrace our inner Mariah Carey in peace — all we want for Christmas is to enjoy the spirit how we want, for as long as we want.
Aisha Harris is a staff editor and writer in the opinion section of The New York Times, where she covers culture and society.