Ever notice an extraordinarily high number of engagement photos popping up on Facebook over the holidays? It’s not just your imagination; in November, British events company Chillisauce surveyed 10,000 people and found that 31% thought Christmas Eve was the best day of the year to propose. Another 7% opted for Christmas Day, 2% chose Dec. 26, and 18% said New Year’s Eve was the optimal date for proposals.
Ellen Lamont, assistant professor of sociology at Appalachian State University, tells Quartz that proposals today are largely a symbolic gesture, and so they feed off the symbolism of the holiday season.
“The holidays are a time of creating a sense of family, creating rituals and family meaning. You’re literally bringing family together during the holidays, but with the marriage proposal, you’re symbolically creating this new family.”
Lamont, who’s writing a book on modern courtship entitled The Mating Game: Courtship in an Era of Gender Upheaval, says that proposals today are rarely practical questions. She explains:
“My research shows that people almost always know the proposal is coming, so it’s not a surprise. They’ve talked about getting married and have laid out their life to a certain extent. But women still want me to do the proposing. They want the idea of a grand gesture, they want this nice narrative to tell their friends, and it becomes this symbol of the man’s level of commitment.”
Not only is the holiday season symbolically rich, it’s also a time when people tend to take stock of their lives and make pivotal decisions.
“You’re reflecting on your year and your life,” says Lamont. “There’s data that shows there are a lot of divorced initiated in January. The holidays have a lot of family emotion embedded and it can either be used for the positive or the negative.”
Of course, there are also the practical benefits of having family close at hand—Lamont says that many want to celebrate with their loved ones shortly after getting engaged. And finally, the snowfall (real or not), glistening lights, and roaring fires translate to a romantic time of year.