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Issue 1784 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

Is It Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas?

When is it ok to start celebrating Christmas?

Sandra Seitamaa V Y G1sn Tw Unsplash Photo: Sandra Seitamaa on Unsplash


in Issue 1784

Christmas is typically celebrated universally on the 25th of December. However, when the holiday season commences is a fiercely contentious subject. On the surface, this may appear as an innocent topic of conversation, yet underneath lies a ticking time bomb of controversy which carries with it a series of explosive implications. These include the following: Christmas tree assembly, Christmas playlist compilation, and mulled wine manufacturing. 

Tesco would have you believe that Christmas starts in October; talk about giving an inch and taking a mile. Obviously, there are serious economic incentives for the UK high street to start advertising Christmas earlier than would be expected, providing one benchmark to when Christmas starts, no matter how much the thought of eating a mince pie in October may make your skin crawl! 

In Kanye West’s debut Christmas song titled “Christmas in Harlem”, Kanye famously describes celebrating Christmas “Right after autumn falls”. Consulting the world wide web, the Autumn, or as Mr West describes “Fall”, ends on the 21st of December. This somewhat surprised me as I thought Kanye was a big Christmas fan, although the proximity to Thanksgiving in the US suggests his possible need for rest in between the seasonal periods. Mr West’s perspective on this matter helps provide international context; where it must be stated that this is a global issue and underlines the narrowmindedness of some attitudes. 

The common perspective is that Christmas and its associated festivities commence on the 1st of December, no ifs or buts. Seeing as this is the month in which Christmas day occurs it makes sense to initiate the holiday season on the 1st given it is the beginning of December. That is not to say that this line of thinking is without its flaws. First, there are still 24 days remaining until the date itself, with many schools and employers continuing to work past this date until a few days prior. Furthermore, does that mean you should go out and buy a Christmas tree on the 1st? In which case this presents the possible risk of pine needles clogging up the carpet. The abscission of needles in Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) trees was analysed in a study carried out by the Christmas Tree Research Centre at Dalhousie University, Canada. The paper identified an estimated 100% abscission rate after roughly 2 weeks assuming a 1-week abscission initiation period. This would suggest that the optimal date for Christmas tree purchasing should lie around the 10th of December, or the 21st if your name rhymes with Can Ye Rest. Although this analysis provides detail on Balsam Fir trees which are native to North America and similar to the native Norway Spruce (Picea abies) which is typically sold in the UK, it provides a comparative representation as to the potentially devastating consequences which could occur should needle abscission commence earlier than expected. 

Contrary to the early Christmas theories, there are those who believe in the twelve days of Christmas, which start on Christmas Day itself and run through the new year until the 5th of January. A day prior to “Epiphany”, more commonly known as Three Kings Day, which commemorates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus Christ days after his birth. 

Whatever side of the proverbial fence you may stand on, Christmas means different things to different people and should be treated as such. Celebrate when you want with those you want. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it…”. 

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