I am writing this on a damp yet reasonably warm Saturday afternoon in Northern England. At this time every year something wheedles its way into our life, and remains there until the new year.
I've noted that huge areas of shops have been emptied, and filled again, with a mass of red-coloured packaging holding any number of delicious snacky things, gifts, cards, and wrapping paper.
Christmas is upon us. This is Stage One – the population of the stores with Christmas-related merchandise. This hearkens back to my childhood, where I would go shopping with my parents, and see toys that I would desperately want (as any child does). My calls for toys and presents would be replied with a phrase I learnt to dread.
“Yes, we can get you that and save it for Christmas”
I don’t want to save it for Christmas, I want it now!
The worst thing about having a birthday in July is that for about six months of the year there is either my birthday or Christmas to save presents for. I've never been particularly good at waiting.
Soon, the Stage Two will come into force. This is the music. Christmas Number Ones from the past fifty years will be played. And played again. And played again. And you will hear them again and again and again, until you beg storekeepers to put something more entertaining on, like the noise of someone tripping and falling into a field of cabbage.
Stage Three follows, coupled with Stage Two. People start buying EVERYTHING in the shops – not just presents, everything. They realise that Sainsburys and the like are going to be closed for a whole day (some might even dare to close for two!) and people who usually shop perhaps once a week suddenly feel the need to stock up every two hours.
Then the day comes, a great time is had by all (hopefully), and Stage Four follows. Post-Christmas.
I don’t know what the shops do on Christmas Day, but it’s obvious that they are beavering away while the rest of us eat turkey, open presents and fall asleep with a can of Stella Artois. Because as soon as Boxing Day arrives, not only are the sales started, but all those shelves in the supermarkets are emptied of Christmas merchandise so that the Easter Eggs can be brought out.
Why do we need to celebrate Christmas so early on? Why can’t we celebrate it in December, and maybe even wait until March before we start going onto Easter? But we live in a culture that has extra-early summer sales in February, and cards for every occasion from your football team losing to your goldfish exploding.
It is obvious I cannot change this. And I don't have enough annual leave to take the next ten weeks off. So I will, as every year, face the music (literally), wish people a merry Christmas, buy absurd presents that no one will want, and go slowly mad at the two dithering shoppers stood blocking the aisle I wish to go down.