When should we start celebrating Christmas?

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Photograph: Sammie Caine

First off, let’s get one thing straight: I don’t hate Christmas. Whenever I utter something remotely annoyed about seeing Christmas decorations up in September I get called some kind of Scrooge. I’m not a Scrooge about Christmas – in December. That’s when it is, and that’s where it should stay.

Christmas is about being with family and close friends, eating ridiculous amounts of food, gift giving and receiving, hoping for snow on Christmas Day and listening to cheesy music that you really shouldn’t like. This is all fine and is really fun. In this sense Christmas is like cake; it’s fun to eat once in a while, it tastes good and you get a little buzz from eating it, but if you had to eat it all the time, it would get dull, tiresome, and sickly. This is how I feel when I see Christmas leaching its way both sides of Halloween, or when Christmas cards appear in the shops in September. There’s so much else to do and to enjoy before Christmas marks the end of the year, and to focus on it for so long just seems to sap a lot of the joy out of it.

I remember when I was kid and about ten days before Christmas I would help my mum decorate the tree with the fairy lights and all our decorations, candles on the mantelpiece would go into their holiday holders, and the wreath would go up on the front door. Then the night before I would try and go to sleep really early so the night would go faster; Father Christmas would come down the chimney and put all the presents under the tree, and then it would be Christmas Day! The house would be filled with the smell of good cooking, the family would be together and I could finally open my presents! At that age I wasn’t really aware of the whole rigmarole that surrounded the holiday, and the more I did become aware of it, the more it lost its shine for me. It’s daft that in November people are running around asking “have you done it all yet?”, or when people talk about the “big day”. It’s not a big day; I’m not getting married, it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a nice day and it’s light in the middle of the dark winter (the origins of the Yule festival), but folks, it happens every year and there’s no need to start playing Christmas music in the shops in October.

This Christmas is going to be a small one, I’m going home to my family and we’re going to enjoy a meal together and each other’s company. When I think of Christmas Day I think of warm fires, reading snuggled into the sofa, checking out the gifts other people may have bought you, and just being content. I think by dragging it out, making it more materialistic, and hyping up expectations about the “big day” to a ridiculous level, it spoils the more relaxed elements of what should be a lovely holiday. By having such a big run up to Christmas, the jump into the day can seem small and therefore there’s disappointment and annoyance. If we keep the holiday where it belongs, and begin to get excited as that first door opens on the Advent Calendar, then the magic is still there, and not lost as it gets scraped over too much time.