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Christmas creep

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A Brazilian shopping mall decorated for Christmas on November 22, 2014

Christmas creep is a merchandising phenomenon in which merchants and retailers introduce Christmas-themed merchandise or decorations before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, which in the United States is on the day after Thanksgiving.[1] The term was first used in the mid-1980s.[2]

Economic motivation


The phenomenon is associated with a desire of merchants to take advantage of particularly heavy Christmas-related shopping well before Black Friday in the United States and before Remembrance Day in Canada. The term Black Friday was not used until recently in the UK and Ireland; its increased usage can be traced to the internet being more widespread, as well as growing Americanization, as neither country celebrates Thanksgiving. Previously, retailers referred to Christmas as the "golden quarter", that is, the three months of October through December is the quarter of the year in which the retail industry hopes to make the most profit.[3] The lack of Thanksgiving as a "barrier" between holidays has caused several retailers to put up Christmas sales earlier in the year. For instance, Irish retailer Brown Thomas opens its Christmas store in mid-August. This phenomenon can apply for other holidays as well, notably Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Saint Patrick's Day, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Bastille Day, Columbus Day, Diwali, and many dozens of others. The motivation for holiday creep is for retailers to lengthen their selling interval for seasonal merchandise in order to maximize profit and to give early-bird shoppers a head start on that holiday. However, it is not clear that this practice has been consistently beneficial for retailers.[4]

Seasonal creep is not limited to the northern hemisphere winter holiday season and other popular holidays and observances, but is also becoming more common for merchandise associated with a general season of the year. Advertising for winter-, spring-, summer-, and fall-related goods generally now begins midway through the previous season. For example, many supermarkets in the United Kingdom begin selling Easter eggs even before Christmas, and in the US, stores begin selling 4th of July products before Easter, and the next major holiday is marketed as soon as or before the previous has ended. In Canada, there have been protests that marking the Christmas season should be refrained until after the solemn commemorations of Remembrance Day November 11 have been concluded.[5][6] The phenomenon is also known as "holiday creep".[7]

In Australia, shops have been known to have their Christmas merchandise available as early as late September, mainly because older Australians generally don't celebrate Halloween compared to younger Australians, though by the 2010s, Halloween merchandise has cropped up alongside Christmas merchandise during the same periods. The department store David Jones Limited even begins selling Christmas merchandise at the start of September.[citation needed]

Christmas decorations in a Sam's Club store on October 6, 2017

United States


Marketing for Christmas sales has begun in early Autumn since the late 1800s in the United States.[8] An emporium in Kansas City, Missouri named Bullene, Moore, Emery & Company sparked a preholiday rush that "packed every square foot of the store" on November 16, 1888. Promotion for an "Early Christmas Event" in 1893 by a retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah retailer read: "This is no joke. We mean it. We will do it … MONDAY, MONDAY, MONDAY."[9] In 1918 the Council of National Defense pushed early Christmas buying to ameliorate transport and labor shortages caused by World War I, urging patriotic Americans to "Take the Crush out of Your Christmas Shopping and Put It Into Winning the War" with advertisements of Santa in "doughboy" uniform.[8]

Further stimulus for early holiday gift buying came with what came to be called "Franksgiving" in 1939, 1940, and 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the celebration of Thanksgiving forward a week in order to help boost retail sales by prolonging the Christmas shopping season. This was followed by the sending of millions of American fighting men overseas in 1942 to engage in World War II. As a result, the U.S. Post Office Department called on those at home to send all Christmas mail addressed to men in uniform abroad by November 1. To comply with this request, Americans began shopping for Christmas in September and did not quit after the mailing deadline. As a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri noted, "this first burst of Christmas buying put shoppers in the mood for winding up their annual stint early, now that they had started."[9]

Much more recently, the hardware chain Lowe's as well as Home Depot provided impetus for it in 2000 with a policy of setting out Christmas trees and decorations by October 1, mainly because the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays do not provide enough merchandise or sales to fill retail space between the end of the summer season and the Christmas season.[citation needed] In 2002–2003, Christmas creep accelerated markedly with retailers such as Walmart, J. C. Penney, and Target beginning their Christmas sales in October.[10] In 2006 the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, said that 40 percent of consumers planned to start their holiday shopping before Halloween. Since the 2010s, there has been a growing trend for retailers to start selling holiday merchandise in mid- to late-September, with retailers such as Walmart, Sam's Club, Kmart, Costco, J.C. Penney, Sears, and Lowe's now beginning their Christmas sales earlier than October 1.[11]



Christmas creep has also been cited as a phenomenon in radio broadcasting. Prior to the early 21st century, radio stations commonly began adding some Christmas songs to their regular playlists in early December and then playing an all-Christmas playlist on December 24 and 25.[citation needed] In 2000[12][13] some stations began playing an exclusively Christmas format for the entire month of December, a practice that became more widespread in 2001. In subsequent years, such stations have commonly shifted to an all-Christmas playlist after Thanksgiving, or even several weeks earlier.[14] A handful of American radio stations[15] have, since 2006, earned a reputation for regularly switching to Christmas music on November 1, the day after Halloween; as of 2011, this has not become the norm for most of North America (most stations have typically changed on or around Veterans, Remembrance and Armistice Day on November 11; for example, iHeartMedia used November 10 as the standard launch date for most of its approximately 90 Christmas format flips in 2023).[16] Earlier flips to Christmas music were noted in 2020 (the first station that year flipped in late September), as broadcasters sought to alleviate some of the stress brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.[17][18] A sudden reversal of this trend occurred as the pandemic waned in 2022, as no station would adopt the all-Christmas format until October 28—and that station, the lone station to flip before November 1, had largely gone unnoticed until October 30; the trade Web site Radio Insight, which tracks the first-in-the-nation Christmas flips, erroneously stated that "it appears we will make it to Halloween without a radio station already having started playing Christmas music."[19] In general, this later start was also observed in 2023; Radio Insight and Inside Radio both noted that the first station each noticed had changed to Christmas music was WMXL in Lexington, Kentucky, which did so at midnight October 31. (An additional station, WMGA in Kenova, West Virginia, had flipped on October 19, but this change was a stunt tied to the station's upcoming format change after Christmas.)[20][21]

Some of the channels on the cable radio service Music Choice begin playing Christmas music continually from the end of Halloween up until the first week of January (in light of the consequences of the Internet age, the network maintains an exclusive Christmas music channel through some providers and their TV Everywhere platform year-round). Likewise, the U.S. cable channel Hallmark Channel usually begins its "Countdown to Christmas" programming event (a continuous marathon of original Christmas movies) on November 1. In 2010, ABC Family began to air some holiday-related programming in mid-November under the banner "Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas"; as a prelude to its main "25 Days of Christmas" event.[22][23] The network, renamed Freeform, renamed the programming block "Kickoff to Christmas" in 2018, expanding it so that it encompasses the entire month of November. (Freeform cannot move the block into October because its existing Halloween block, "31 Nights of Halloween", occupies the entirety of that month, itself having expanded from its original 13 days.) Freeform dropped the Kickoff to Christmas in 2023, amid widespread loss of carriage, in favor of a "30 Nights of Disney" format that included only a few Christmas specials and movies after Thanksgiving.[24]

Criticism and concern


"It is inappropriate to the consumer to be pushing December holiday purchasing in September and October," states David Katz, chief marketing officer with Randa Apparel & Accessories, maker of Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, and other popular brands. "If I'm going to have a four-month holiday season, I'm not as driven to buy now," he adds. "You lose the sense of urgency and immediacy."[7]

"We're going to be old fashioned and have Thanksgiving first, and we'll decorate for Christmas afterward … seems just more like Americana and less like propaganda," blared a 1953 advertisement placed by a department store in Tacoma, Washington.[9]

"We see these decorations a month and a half before the holiday arrives and when it does come, we're so sick and tired of the lights and trimmings, we pay no attention to them, and the whole atmosphere is dull at the time it should be cheerful," stated H. Earle Garzee in a letter to the La Crosse Tribune in 1947.[9]



This market trend is satirized in the 1974 animated special It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, when the characters go shopping at a department store and discover that it has its Christmas displays up in the middle of April, including a sign forewarning that there were only a mere 246 days left until Christmas. Additionally, in 1973's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Sally complains that she was looking for a turkey tree for Thanksgiving but had only found Christmas supplies.

Several songs satirize the phenomenon, including Loudon Wainwright III's "Suddenly It's Christmas" (from his 1993 live album Career Moves), Straight No Chaser's "The Christmas Can-Can" (from their 2009 album Christmas Cheers), Paul and Storm's "The Way-Too-Early Christmas Song" (from their 2010 album Do You Like Star Wars?). Christian singer/songwriter Brandon Heath voiced his feelings on Christmas creep in the song "The Day After Thanksgiving" (from his 2013 album Christmas Is Here). Randy Brooks, best known as the author of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," recorded "It's Halloween (A Christmas Song)," which remarked upon the increasing trend of entering the Christmas season immediately after Halloween ends, facetiously forgetting what Thanksgiving is, lamenting the season is only eight weeks long, noting that Valentine's Day celebrations will begin on December 26, and musing that next year's Christmas celebrations might begin on Labor Day.

In Jim Butcher's 2012 novel Cold Days, Santa Claus himself declares that he's drawing the line at Halloween.

See also


Further reading

  • Kelly, John (November 20, 2008). "It's Not the Eggnog Talking: Christmas Is Starting Earlier". The Washington Post. p. B03. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  • Kelly, John (November 24, 2008). "Earlier Christmas Displays Just a Friendly Reminder". The Washington Post. p. B03. Retrieved December 1, 2008.


  1. ^ Siewers, Alf (November 25, 1987). "He's well-suited to enjoying life of Santa". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 26, 2007. And so does the culture, with a commercializing of himself that Santa deplores even as he has watched the holiday season creep back to Labor Day.
  2. ^ Maxwell, Kerry (September 18, 2006). "Macmillan English Dictionary Word Of The Week Archive – "Christmas creep"". New Words. Macmillan Publishers. Archived from the original on March 20, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2007. The term Christmas creep was first used in the mid-eighties, though gained wider recognition more recently, possibly due to subsequent coinage of the expression mission creep.
  3. ^ Zoe Wood (Tuesday December 21, 2010) Snow chaos raises fears for Christmas dinners minus the trimmings The Guardian
  4. ^ "Christmas Creep: The Shopping Season Is Longer, but Is It Better?". Knowledge@Wharton. Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. March 1, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2007. Wharton marketing scholars and other analysts say an extended Christmas season is something of a mixed bag. It may hold advantages, disadvantages — or even no advantages — for store owners.
  5. ^ "'Christmas creep': Is it too soon for holiday decorations?". CTV News. November 5, 2014. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  6. ^ Quinn, Mark (November 10, 2016). "Poppy dresses fight Christmas creep, honour Remembrance Day". CBC News. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  7. ^ a b Meyersohn, Nathaniel (September 29, 2022). "Holiday sales creep has gotten out of hand | CNN Business". CNN. Retrieved November 15, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Collins, Paul (November 6, 2013). "Christmas Season Starts Earlier Every Year!". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved November 15, 2023.
  9. ^ a b c d Black, Bill (November 8, 2022). "When Christmas Started Creeping". CONTINGENT. Retrieved November 15, 2023.
  10. ^ "Christmas Creeps Into Stores", San Diego Union-Tribune, October 25, 2006. Accessed November 18, 2007.
  11. ^ "The Christmas Shopping Season Now Starts ... in September?". Time. September 13, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Abbott, Jim (November 24, 2000). "The gravy on my mashed potatoes". The Orlando Sentinel. p. 135. Retrieved October 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  13. ^ Abbott, Jim (December 22, 2000). "Holiday memories flow nonstop". The Orlando Sentinel. p. 110. Retrieved October 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  14. ^ McQuade, Dan (November 14, 2014). "South Jersey Radio Station Easy 93.1 Has Been Playing Christmas Music for a Month". Philadelphia. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  15. ^ "Too Early for Christmas Music? Susquehanna Radio station now playing it", WGAL News, November 20, 2014
  16. ^ Venta, Lance (November 10, 2023). "iHeartMedia Launches Christmas Music On Over 85 Stations". Radio Insight. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  17. ^ Herbert, Geoff (November 4, 2020). "Syracuse radio station switches to Christmas music, becomes Santa 102". Syracuse Post-Standard. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  18. ^ "Star 102.5 begins playing Christmas music". WIVB-TV. November 1, 2020. Retrieved November 5, 2020.
  19. ^ "Domain Insight 10/30: Where Are All The Christmas Flips?". RadioInsight. October 30, 2022. Retrieved October 31, 2022.
  20. ^ Venta, Lance (October 31, 2023). "No trick: WMXL becomes first all-Christmas station of 2023". Retrieved October 31, 2023.
  21. ^ "November Blizzard: Christmas Flips Are Busting Out All Over The Dial". Insideradio.com. November 1, 2023. Retrieved November 1, 2023.
  22. ^ Wheat, Lorraine (October 4, 2019). "TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases 'The Kominsky Method' Season 2 Trailer". Variety. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  23. ^ Otterson, Joe (August 17, 2017). "Brenda Song, Jason Biggs to Star in Freeform's 'Angry Angel' (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved November 19, 2019.
  24. ^ "November's '30 Days of Disney' Schedule | Freeform Updates". Freeform. Retrieved November 13, 2023.