THE START OF HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
Here’s an article I wrote nine years ago. Is the trend accelerating?
On November 1st, a friend asked, partly in jest:
“Halloween is over, can we listen to Christmas music now?”
And therein lies a conundrum. When do we begin the celebration of the Christmas holiday?
There are two schools of thought:
- Celebrate each holiday in its own season: first Halloween, then Thanksgiving, only then Christmas
- Stretch out the Christmas celebration earlier
Which of these two has historical precedence?
The first school of thought has a clear historical precedence. Most ancient is the observation of the Feast of Christmas or the Christ Mass, which has been celebrated since the 4th century.
This season is called Advent in Western Christianity, from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” In ancient cultures, this word was used to greet royalty. This was a preparatory time for the coming of the King.
The four Sundays of Advent usually start after Thanksgiving and run up to or before Christmas Day. Thanksgiving, at least how it is celebrated in America, began in the early 17th century with the Pilgrims.
What has changed recently?
In a word: retailing.
- Brick-and-mortar retailers have announced they’re opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day: Macy’s, Target, and Walmart are moving sales earlier Thursday. Black Friday on Thursday… and earlier.
- E-commerce sites are advertising pre-Black Friday sales. The Wall Street Journal reports, “UPS, FedEx Gird for Earlier Holiday Rush.” On Thanksgiving Day, online sales are projected to reach $1.35 billion, up 27% from last year. Cyber Monday, which used to follow Black Friday, is now moving earlier and changing its name. It’s just called Pre-Black Friday Sale.
Another WSJ report says that online shoppers accounted for 40% of the $59 billion in sales racked up over the four-day Black Friday weekend last year, up from 23% in 2006, according to the National Retail Federation. People are putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.
What leads online e-commerce?
Mobile devices. IBM predicts that 53% of online visits this year will be made from smartphones and tablets, up from almost 43% last year. Apple iOS devices are expected to drive twice the mobile traffic of Android and four times the sales. Browsing will be done on smartphones, but tablets will account for twice as many purchases as smartphones.
What’s the fallout?
Thanksgiving as a holiday is being squeezed between the #1 candy sales holiday of Halloween and the even bigger shopping season of Christmas. Pumpkin Spice Latte, that most popular seasonal beverage which began in 2003, has heralded the coming of Fall like the changing color of leaves… does this help differentiate the holidays? It seems to be inspiring an outbreak of nutmeg-laced, squash-flavored foods. Pumpkin Oreos! I have even seen pumpkin pasta sauce. It’s the #pumpkinization of America.
But to be fair, there is another reason for pulling Christmas forward. Some people want the experience of the Christmas holiday to begin earlier: Christmas music, movies, decorations, fir trees,
pumpkin spice latte.
Some prefer to keep each holiday separate and distinct, celebrating each in its turn. Others, like Charles Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge, said in A Christmas Carol:
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
How do you celebrate the cumulative holiday season?
P.S. Keep it tuned right here as our Christmas series of the History of the Holidays starts on December 3rd.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian