By anyone’s standards, Christmas is well and truly over for another year. I, alas, had to go back to work on the 3rd January, which seemed a little early given that it was very much within the 12 days of Christmas. I’m not sure it should really be legal to make people work while Christmas University Challenge is still being broadcast.
I watched that particular show avidly. Mrs Proclaims and I are fans of the main show anyway, although I find it perplexingly difficult to get the questions right. I find for the ‘celebrity’ Christmas edition though, they make the questions a bit easier so I’m able to feel artificially cleverer during the festive period.
It was with great pride that I saw my adopted town of Reading make it through to the final of the Christmas edition. It was with subsequent shame that I saw them fail to score a single point in said final. Technically I am both a current student and alumnus of Reading University (‘alumnus’ having already obtained a ‘professional’ accreditation from said institution and ‘current’ as I’m stumbling through my MA part time and at the slowest pace permissible) so the pride and shame of their success and ensuing failure was keenly felt.
But as Christmas University Challenge was very much the last bastion of festive programming then I must accept that Christmas is officially done and dusted, and I no longer have any justifiable reason for complaining about having to go to work. Which doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to complain to anyone who is prepared to listen.
Had there been any doubt as to the finality of festivity then a trip into town on Saturday morning confirmed it. For, aside from some lingering festive edibles on display at a heavily reduced price, there was no sign of the excesses of recent weeks. Consumers were scarcely to be seen. Although many a retailer was still advertising ‘Unbeatable Winter Sales’ any bargain hunting seems to either have already happened, or maybe, in the current economic climate, didn’t happen at all.
Not to be deterred, however, it seems our plucky retailers are fighting on more than one front. If they can’t lure us in with made-up discounts on goods that no-one really wants or needs, then they’ll get us to panic buy for the next ‘big event’.
Most of us have come to accept that Christmas, for the high street, begins in earnest from October. And whether we like it or not, it’s hard to ignore the huge commercial behemoth that Christmas has become. Forget the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ whether that be founded in faith, family or just a desire to be a bit nicer to each other, for shops the meaning of Christmas is to sell us stuff, and to be fair to them, we seem more than prepared to buy it for the most part. And if we’re all going to play that game, then it seems reasonable for us to start early. Christmas decorations don’t go up in my house until my last day of work preceding the Christmas break, but I might well be buying Christmas gifts for friends and family much earlier. There are often lots of people to buy for and it’s helpful to spread the time and the cost over a few months. I don’t necessarily like it, but even years where I actively try and have a quiet Christmas, as I pretty much did this year, I still find the financial and temporal investment to be significant.
Which is just not the case for other calendar dates.
So, if I need, as retail theory seems to dictate, about three months to prepare for Christmas then I really don’t need a whole month and half to prepare for Valentine’s Day. And I absolutely don’t need the best part of three months to prepare for Easter.
Yet at least one major retailer seems to already be stocking up for both of these forthcoming events.
Now while I fully accept the Valentine’s Day is pretty much entirely driven by retailers, and I would completely ignore it but for the fact that I’m in no way stupid enough not to get Mrs Proclaims a little something to mark the occasion, I also know that Mrs Proclaims will be more than happy with your classic Valentine’s Day fare of flowers and chocolates. I try to be a bit more original at other gift-giving times of the year, but the essence of Valentines Day really is flowers and chocolates. And I definitely don’t need six weeks to prepare for that. I find a day is usually more than adequate.
And as for Easter (assuming we ignore any religious sensibilities, which retailers absolutely do) then that’s all about chocolate eggs. Even assuming there’s a bit of a rush as we build up to the day itself, then I’m still going to be fine with less than a week to prepare. Nothing good is going to come of me stocking up on chocolate eggs before the end of March. Certainly, I have no need of them in January when my supply of Christmas chocolate is still alarmingly high.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to retailers cynically trying to get me to part with my money. It’s kind of their job to do that. My job is to remain vigilant and not to fall for any of their nonsense (like ‘Black Friday’ etc). And in the past, that has not always been easy. Both sides have experienced victories and defeats in the never-ending war on my wallet. But if they’re going to try and convince me to buy Easter Eggs in January then I can’t help but feel that the ball is in my court. And that ball is definitely not egg-shaped.