It gets earlier every year. That common refrain, muttered under one’s breath at any unseasonably early sign of Christmas, is particularly prevalent in Britain. This is the place, after all, where a popular department store started selling Christmas knick-knacks in August this year.
That may have been a gimmick, but the more or less official start of the Christmas shopping season is now less than a week away. On Nov. 1, the Christmas lights along London’s most famous shopping thoroughfare, Oxford Street, will be switched on, the earliest date in recent history. (The elaborate light display first began in 1959.)
If London continues down this path—and dispenses with any semblance of dignity in favor of unadulterated commercialism—it won’t be long before Oxford Street’s shoppers are confronted with Christmas lights in October. And projecting the recent trend even further forward in time, retailers’ ultimate dream—Christmas in July—will come just before the turn of the century. (Surely we’ll have hoverboards by then.)
Dubious statistics aside, if there is any country that is going to push the limits of Christmas creep to the limits, it’s Britain. Lacking a traditional starting point for the Christmas season—like Thanksgiving in the US or Advent markets in continental Europe—British retailers have been keen to entice shoppers to open their wallets earlier and earlier.
Brits are not the only ones trying to extend the season of frenzied gift-buying, but few countries can match their gusto. The UK has recently imported the “Black Friday” tradition from the US, despite the day after Thanksgiving having no particular significance in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.
Aside from an excuse to do more shopping, of course.