A phenomenon that can be found any place where Christmas is celebrated, but which is most extremely prevalent in North America, Christmas Creep refers to the tendency of retail stores to bring out their Christmas-related stock earlier and earlier each year.
Prior to The '80s, the Christmas retail season in the U.S. didn't start until after Thanksgiving Day (although Christmas catalogs for JCPenney, Sears, etc. have been mailed as early as August since at least The '70s). The Friday after Thanksgiving became the default day to start the Christmas shopping season, and stores responded with big sales on that day. The earliest known reference to this day as "Black Friday" dates to 1961 in Philadelphia, because of the huge traffic jams and crowds of shoppers. The phrase took on a darker meaning in The '90s, following several incidents where shoppers or store staff were injured in what were effectively stampedes of people rushing the store doors.
Since the Turn of the Millennium, it's more or less universal that Christmas merchandise will take over as soon as the Halloween stuff is moved to Clearance (though many grocery stores try to reserve at least some display space for Thanksgiving). And even when Halloween has the main "seasonal" aisles, some Christmas stuff will turn up by mid-October. Nor is the Christmas Creep confined to the retail world: many radio stations that switch to an "all Christmas Songs, all the time" format, for example, now do so as early as November 1, and it's not unusual for homeowners to get a similarly early start on putting up their own lights and decorations (though in cold-weather climates this may stem more from a desire to beat the winter weather).
Moreover, this phenomenon has begun to affect all holidays that have opportunity for commercialization. It is no longer uncommon to see paraphernalia for an upcoming holiday appearing in stores as soon as (if not before) the previous holiday is over. Thus, Valentine's Day decorations have begun to appear in stores as soon as the Christmas season is over, with St. Patrick's Day material popping up by the beginning of February, Passover and Easter things at almost the same time,note back-to-school promos as early as July 5th,note and Halloween items in July/August.
Recent surveys have revealed that Christmas Creep isn't all bad: Some people often report feeling excited for Christmas as early as March, and in the UK, many people flock to their television screens to watch the premiere of the next big-budget Christmas Advert produced by John Lewisnote at the start of November each year.
If Christmas Creep appears in media, it's generally Played for Laughs, poking fun at the earliness itself or mercilessly mocking the commercialism involved.
Has nothing to do with The Krampus.
- Peanuts joked about this a lot. The Halloween-Thanksgiving period was the usual victim of the creep.
- In a late 1950s strip, Charlie Brown complained to Patty about not being able to buy a mask for Halloween, due to the store staff being busy putting up Christmas decorations.
- Another comic had Sally go to see the Mall Santa in February. Charlie Brown says she's either a month too late or eleven months too early. Sally then says she'll be the first in line.
- In the TV special It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, an entire scene takes place in a Christmas store display when the gang go to buy eggs.
- Another special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, has the characters complain about retailers stocking Christmas items before Thanksgiving.
- In one Shoe comic strip published and taking place on July 1, Professor Cosmo "celebrates" July 1 as the day when his Christmas decorations are no longer up too late, but too early. (Which is to say, he leaves them up all year round because he's too lazy to take them down.)
- The Blondie strip for September 14, 2013. As Dagwood and Blondie are walking through a mall, Dagwood complains about the stores playing Christmas music in September.
- One FoxTrot comic that ran in November was about Andy complaining about how the decorations came out earlier every year, and stores begin pushing holiday merchandise. The punchline was that she was complaining about Valentine's Day decorations, despite it not even being December yet. Apparently, Christmas sales ran their course back in September.
- Drabble. In the strip for Monday September 16, 2013, Mr. Drabble (the title character's father) finds his wife singing Christmas songs and setting out Christmas decorations in September.
- Calvin and Hobbes:
- Calvin deliberately tries to spread this in one strip, singing "Silver Bells" at the top of his lungs in mid-September. His parents respond by forcing him outside. Calvin shoots back, "Not thinking about it won't make it go away!"
- In a strip from the day after Halloween: Calvin and Hobbes wake up sick from all the candy they ate. Calvin remarks how the day after a holiday is depressing and suggests going into town to look at Christmas decorations.
- Cathy is outraged that she can't buy a swimsuit at a department store in summer as they're moving in the fall merchandise. She demands to see the manager, who shows up in a Santa suit.
"What good is a holiday if you can't make any serious money from it?"
- A strip in October 2015 featured Cooper looking at a Halloween display on one side of the store and a Christmas display on the other, and commenting that Tim Burton was ahead of his time. (As mentioned below, it was this sort of thing that actually gave him the idea.)
- Christmas stuff being put out in September is a recurring plot. Every year the customers are surprised by that.
- One year Cooper and Donnie find Christmas ornaments in their shipment...in May. Donnie begs for it to be a mistake.
- Not only does Stuart actively encourage this trope, he tried to make Easter a second Christmas shopping season since Christmas is when Grumbel's is at its most profitable. He's also given out Christmas flyers and candy canes on Halloween (prompting the kids to egg his house) and openly disdains holidays that aren't retailer-friendly.
- Helping Stuart (and not helping the others) is that corporate encourages pushing the Christmas Creep. The managers meeting that happens in June always discusses Christmas, they've encouraged store managers to play Christmas music starting October 1 (which Stuart made mandatory in his district) and sent a sign reminding people that it's time to think about Christmas in August (which promptly got torn up by customers).
- While Christmas is the most obvious, it's not like the other holidays aren't exempt. One year on February 9 a Valentine's display changed over to an Easter display in the amount of time it took a customer to look at her phone. Another year Donnie noted that the Easter stuff had been out since the day after Christmas.
- The film The Heart of Christmas is based on a fate of Dax Locke, a 2-year-old Littlest Cancer Patient whose hometown gave him one last Christmas when it became clear that he would not live till then.
- A variant takes place in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory where Wonka shows the room where his geese lay chocolate eggs. Remember, the tour takes place on October 1st...
Wonka: They're laying overtime right now for Easter.
Mike: But Easter's over!
Wonka: Shh! (covers Mike's mouth) They don't know that. I'm trying to get ahead for next year.
- This was the inspiration for Tim Burton's narrative poem that was later adapted into his animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton composed the poem after seeing Christmas decorations being put up in a store window display while the Halloween decorations were being taken down.
- In one sci-fi story, Christmas Creep had gotten so out of control that laws were passed to make it illegal to even so much as hum Christmas carols except on the day itself. On penalty of death.
- Ray Bradbury used a concept of making holidays illegal in his short story "The Exiles". By 2120, "Halloween was outlawed and Christmas was banned!" Ambrose Bierce appears in the story as a character, and he makes the following comment just moments before expiring:
"A regrettable situation...for the Yuletide merchants who, towards the last there, as I recall, were beginning to put up holly and sing Noel the day before Halloween. With any luck at all this year they might have started on Labor Day!"
- A story by the Polish satirist Krzysztof Jaroszynski has an American visit Poland and ask why the Christmas decorations still haven't been taken down by February. The protagonist answers that these are decorations for this year's upcoming Christmas.
- In Christmas Spirit's first story "Bah, Humbug!", Nate Jerome is an overworked commercial writer and advertising executive who has come to hate Christmas.
- In Dresden Files Kringle is one of the fae but only takes up the mantle of Santa during Christmas season. He tells Harry that he hates Christmas Creep and he has drawn the line at Halloween, refusing to become Santa before then.
- The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie marathon has gone from airing 1-2 movies per night throughout December to airing them 24/7 from late October, starting on October 29 in 2016, October 27 in 2017, and October 26 in 2018. note And promos for this are shown during the network's Christmas In July marathon, which is itself being subjected to this phenomenon—in 2017, it included movies specifically filmed for this event (indicated by their 2017 release date) in addition to rerunning past Christmas movies, and despite being explicitly titled "Christmas in July", the 2018 marathon started the last week of June. At this rate, it won't be long before the network is airing Christmas movies year-round.
- The Up Channel and several other North American cable networks have followed suit, starting their Christmas movies on November 1st, but limiting it to 1-2 movies per night.
- Parodied on an early episode of the Nickelodeon show Roundhouse, where immediately after a Troperiffic horror movie parody entitled Hellraiser Freddy The Thirteenth Halloween Chainsaw Massacre On Elm Street 12 during a Halloween-themed segment, Natalie comes in advertising a store's pre-Christmas sale, leading to this exchange.
Micki: Christmas sale? It's not even Thanksgiving yet!
Natalie: Well, time flies when you've got to mark up tons of expensive merchandise that has nothing to do with the holiday spirit!
- In the Corner Gas episode "No Time Like the Presents", Emma is shown to be a victim of this when she comes home and declares that she has all of her Christmas shopping done.
Oscar: Christmas?! It's July, woman!
Emma: Well, I wanted to get a jump on it! Remember last year?
[Flashback to last year]
Emma: It's the 24th and I haven't started shopping!
Oscar: It's the 24th of September, woman!
Emma: Yeah, but I wanted to get a jump on it! Remember last year?
[Flashback to the year before that]
Emma: It's Christmas Day and I haven't bought a thing!
Brent: [confused] We just opened our gifts.
Emma: No, I mean for next year.
Oscar: At least wait until September, woman!
- Satirized in Straight No Chaser's song "The Christmas Can-Can", mixing Christmas carols and the famous can-can melody. "Heard this same song 20 times!/And it's only Halloween!"..."Christmas season!/Starting sooner every year!/It's October!/Stores with plastic Christmas trees!... But mainly shopping! shopping! shopping! shopping! shopping! shopping!"
- "Suddenly It's Christmas" by Loudon Wainwright III.
There's got to be a build-up
To the day that Christ was born
The halls are decked with pumpkins
And the ears of Indian corn
Dragging through the falling leaves
In a one-horse open sleigh
Suddenly it's Christmas
Seven weeks before the day
- "The Way-Too-Early Christmas Song" by Paul and Storm.
It's not December
It's barely even November
Outside it's still too warm for snow to fall
Halloween was yesterday
And winter's still a ways away
But try to tell that to the folks down at the mall....
- In "Weird Al" Yankovic's "I'll Sue Ya", the singer sued the department store chain Neiman Marcus "because they put up their Christmas decorations way outta season".
- One song takes this Up to Eleven, with the singer singing about how Christmas decorations are up practically all year in the mall, from August until July, resulting in them having Santa Claus "in Bermuda shorts, standing by the sleigh/reminding folks the holidays were six short months away." In the end, the singer remarks that cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and they'll take down the decorations by Saint Patrick's Day.
- This trope is the central theme of Saltatio Mortis Willkommen in der Weihnachtszeit note , besides general consumerism.
- CD-ROM of Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary has a section called "Cultural Guide" and it has a short informative article about Christmas in Britain. One sentence really says it all: "Shops are decorated for Christmas from September and in the weeks before Christmas people do their Christmas shopping."
- Gregg Easterbrook, espn.com NFL columnist, used to have a feature in his weekly Tuesday Morning Quarterback column called "Christmas Creep", where he would list real-life examples of this trope that he found or were submitted by his readers. It became SO common, however, that he abandoned it in favor of the Unified Field Theory of Creep, where he lists all non-Christmas versions of this.
- "4 Ways Companies Are Trying To Start Christmas Already", which mentions that some retailers had been putting out Christmas decorations since June. There is also mention of 2013's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales starting in September(The actual date of Black Friday that year was November 29).
- 6 Ways Stores Go Out of Their Way To Annoy You (And Why) has this at #1, with the reason given being "They hate you".
- ClickHole features an article about how stores had already been rolling out their Christmas displays for the next year!
- Many radio stations will play nothing but Christmas Songs throughout November and December. Originally, stations would only play Christmas music on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day or at the most, sporadically starting after Thanksgiving and eventually with more added the week of Christmas, when holiday-themed songs begin falling into the regular rotation. When it does come to Dec. 24-25, usually those stations that hold out on playing a 24-hour Christmas song playlist will switch, with either pre-recorded or satellite-fed programming played, as well as some songs selected from the playlist that's pre-recorded. Some stations still use live talent on Christmas Day, but more often than not the voices will be voice-tracked, recorded a few days earlier, or simply the music will be played without interruption. Then in the mid-to-late 1990s or so, stations in larger markets began an "all-Christmas" format shortly after Thanksgiving, with adult contemporary stations the most likely to change their format; since then, nearly every market has at least one "all Christmas" station, and the format switch has often taken place as early as late October (a full two months before the holiday).
- NYC adult contemporary station WLTW ("Lite FM") used to follow this example, merely mixing Christmas music in with their regular songs, only playing Christmas music 24/7 for the week before. Eventually this changed to 24-hour Christmas music throughout December. They then began to push the start date further and further back until they now start the weekend before Thanksgiving, rather than the more acceptable day after.
- WEZW-FM, a soft AC station serving the Atlantic City-Cape May area in New Jersey, has become notorious for going all-Christmas well before Halloween, typically making the switch around the middle of October.
- WSFF-FM, a variety hits radio station in Roanoke, Virginia, refuses to play Christmas music in November or early December, citing this trope as a reason. They even state "Has everyone forgotten about Thanksgiving?"
- One station parodied this trope by playing Christmas songs on Labor Day (first Monday in September) just to claim they got there first. Then they returned to their regular programming the next day and didn't play any more Christmas songs until November.
- The "We Need a Little Christmas" number from the 1966 musical Mame (an adaptation of Auntie Mame) has the title character deliberately applying this, since she's at a low point in her life (having gotten wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash) and needs Christmas to cheer her up. Her nephew protests, "But, Auntie Mame, it's one week past Thanksgiving Day now!", implying that it's far too early to be starting the Christmas season. Since around the Turn of the Millennium that lyric is often changed to "one week from (or 'til) Thanksgiving Day", as even most critics of Christmas Creep would not consider any time post-Thanksgiving to be early by modern-day standards.
- In the Christmas Episode of The Darkside Detective, McQueen complains that Dooley has been playing Christmas music in the squad car since Halloween, and Dooley says that he got a late start this year.
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game makes fun of the trope in the Times Square level. Upon hearing of the new Boson Dart mode, Winston says, "It's like Christmas came early!" Ray overhears this on his radio and balks, "Earlier than what? Santa came to my house dressed as Dracula last year!"
- In the mall area of System Shock 2, Xerxes reminds shoppers over the loudspeakers that there are only 163 days until Christmas (In other words, it was July).
- Full Frontal Nerdity: After complaining about the Christmas creep, the boys decide to deal with it by combining Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas into a single holiday called Thanksmasoween. Its traditions promise to be interesting, as one of the characters carves the turkey with a chainsaw while wearing a hockey mask and Santa hat.
- Given an interesting spin in Arthur, King of Time and Space: the others expect Lancelot to hate the practice, but he explains that he might deplore the commercialism, but maintaining the Christmas spirit all year is something he's in favour of.
- In Scalie Schoolie, Grizzelda wins a Halloween costume contest by dressing up as the Ghost of Christmas Future, "here to remind you all that it's just a few short weeks away!"
Grizzelda: Come on! Where's your holiday spirit?Geraldine: It won't be around for another two months.
- Averted in this Scandinavia and the World comic, where Norway expresses joy that the American holiday Halloween is catching on in Scandinavia, as this means the Christmas creep is delayed for one more month.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal posits that retail stores follow the "actual" Christmas schedule based around Santa's arrival, rather than the "official" calendar-posted December 25th. "Actual" Christmas comes slightly earlier every year because Santa orbits the sun slightly faster than Earth, and thus arrives earlier every year. The end result: Christmas items appear in stores earlier and earlier, until they are eventually never sold during the calendar holiday season.
- Parodied in this ClickHole article, where the author assumes the decorations for Christmas 2014 are for Christmas 2015.
- In Airlocked, after deadland reverts to the Mason's Harbour setting, Mai (who's from Japan in 1999 and unfamiliar with the level of Christmas creep found in 2006 America) is confused by seeing Christmas decorations in Costco in August. Deciding that they must have lost track of time after being alone in the town so long, she decides to drag home an artificial tree and gets heat stroke.
- The Simpsons brings this up quite often.
- In "Treehouse of Horror XIV", a Halloween special that was pre-empted and aired instead on November 1st. In the opening scene, Kang and Kodos complain about the episode airing a day late, because at this point nobody gives a crap about Halloween anymore and have moved on to Christmas. The two of them already have their own Christmas decorations up.
- "Treehouse of Horror IV" ended with the characters in the very end suddenly diverted from the story when snow starts falling from nowhere and the Simpsons were humming a Christmas carol.
- In King of the Hill, Bill becomes a Mall Santa, and keeps his suit and Christmas decorations at his house well after Christmas, even up until March. Dale remarks by saying "They start Christmas earlier and earlier each year!"
- An episode of Garfield and Friends has Garfield putting up Christmas decorations during a July heat wave as part of an attempt to "think cool". When Jon's neighbours see he has his decorations up early, they decide to put theirs up early too, which leads to everyone in town thinking it's already Christmas and celebrating the holiday early before they remember it's still July. Even Santa Claus is fooled.
- In the South Park episode "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery", Cartman is looking forward to Christmas on the day before Halloween, to the point of circling what he wants in a shopping catalogue and singing Christmas carols while he and his friends set up their Zany Scheme to scare the fifth graders. Eventually, a delivery man shows up with a package for his mother, but Cartman assumes it's his Christmas present and takes a peek. It turns out to be an Antonio Banderas love doll, but Cartman is ecstatic over it.
- In the Rugrats, the babies think it's Christmas already when the house has a Christmas tree and Grandpa dressed as Santa. In the middle of Summer. It's actually the adults setting up their Christmas card picture.
- On an episode of The Angry Beavers, Norb and Dag find themselves launched into a large conifer, which is then all lit up for Christmas. It's then revealed that it's April.
- Bob's Burgers - Linda has a Christmas tree up while the kids are still eating their Halloween candy (most likely Halloween night). It's all dried out by Thanksgiving, so she buys another one - which is all dried out by Christmas Eve, so they drive out to buy yet another one.
- In a Halloween episode of The Real Ghostbusters, Ray looks around at some lights and says, "Wow, they're putting out the Christmas lights earlier and earlier every year....Wait a minute! It's not Christmas!" And he was right; the lights were the result of ghostly phenomena, but the irony is that society has marched on since The '80s, and today anyone making that remark would be only noticing something absurd in the sense of silly, not noticing the kind of anomaly that would make you stop and think "This can't be true, no one would put out Christmas lights as early as Halloween."
- Teen Titans Go!: Their Halloween Episode is a fight against Santa Claus who has decided to take over Halloween. It is the only holiday with Hoopla to rival Christmas, so if he takes it, he will rule all the calendar's holidays.
- In Europe, Christmas candy (especially marzipan, ginger bread or Christmas cookies and cakes) are usually available in stores from September or October. Most European countries don't celebrate Halloween the way Americans do and its counterpart is more low-key, and Thanksgiving is an American holiday (Canada has Thanksgiving on Columbus Day). The Christmas craze in Europe can escalate.
- The United Kingdom is one of the few major Western countries that somehow managed to avoid this trope, mainly because the Christmas season officially begins in October, the beginning of the "Christmas Quarter" (the last quarter of the year). However, it's still not unlikely to see Christmas and winter candies in your local grocery as early as September. In the New Tens, commercials have started popping up as soon as Halloween is over.
- In the mid 2000s the creep was getting fairly bad in Britain, until a spate of vandalism incidents made the news wrecking stores that had advertised as early as June. Apparently stores took the hint, and in the new tens, the Christmas hype has slid back to coming after Halloween, with some low key things in October.
- In Canada, the creeping is slightly restrained after Halloween until after November 11, Remembrance Day, the commemoration of the nation's war dead and veterans, which obviously has no opportunity for commercialization. After that, the whole seasonal blitz goes full bore.
- M&M's used to have candies in "autumn" colors, with items like leaves or perhaps a (Thanksgiving) turkey on the shell instead of the M. Then around Black Friday, the red and green candies for Xmas appeared. Then, some years ago, the autumn colors were replaced with orange and black candies for Halloween; they now go straight into the Xmas colors on November 1. Some of the Christmas candy varieties have white ones as well.
- Office holiday parties are usually held from the beginning of November. This is done partly for practical reasons; if the party is being held too close to Christmas, people won't have time to attend because they need to make various holiday preparations. It also provides for more inclusive, nonsectarian festivities in years when Hanukkah comes early.
- There are Christmas "saving plan"-style mail-order businesses that encourage people on a tight budget to either put a bit aside each month for Christmas or buy presents throughout the year. Given the way they work, these guys start shipping their Christmas catalogues in early January.
- Tickets for various productions of The Nutcracker and other Christmas shows tend to go on sale by September, if not earlier. As well, the advertisements, such as e-mail reminders to regular patrons of these events, begin during the summer. Auditions and rehearsals for Christmas-themed shows range from June to September.
- In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt's Thanksgiving proclamation moved the holiday a week earlier than its (then) traditional "last Thursday of November" date, in order to provide more time for Christmas shopping to stimulate the sluggish Depression economy. This became a bone of political contention, with states and individual families choosing the holiday date according to their political predilections. An act of Congress finally established a "fourth Thursday of November" (which may or may not be the last Thursday) date for the holiday from 1942 onwards.
- Since 2007, ABC Family and its successor, Freeform, have extended their annual "25 Days of Christmas" programming into a secondary itenerary. "Countdown to the 25 Days of Christmas" usually kicks off during the third week in November, with a lighter version of the original block.
- Hallmark announces their Christmas keepsake ornaments near the end of April, and places them on pre-order around this time as well. They become available at Hallmark stores in July.
- Buzz for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade generally starts to bubble during the summer, when character balloons are first announced. For marching bands, the creeping begins a year and a half before the parade they are selected to appear in.
- The Canadian town of St George, Ontario put on a Christmas parade in late October of 2015 for a Littlest Cancer Patient who was not expected to live to December. The boy died on December 6 of that year.
- The originally-Anglican observance of Stir-up Sunday (the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent, occuring some time from 20th - 26th November, and the day on which a family should begin preparing Christmas pudding), stemmed from an entry in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer that was intended to "stir up" parishioners with festive enthusiasm a whole week prior to the actual start of the season of Advent. Advent itself partly functions as a weeks-long period of preparation for the liturgical Christmastide that officially begins on Christmas Day. It's thus possible to make a case that wrapped up in the commercialism of Christmas Creep is a small element of religious tradition.
- The Dutch Sinterklaas tradition is celebrated on the 5th of December. A national pastime is complaining about pepernotennote being stocked earlier each year, usually around the start of August. April 2016 is of note because a retailer was selling orange-colored pepernoten in April (!), though this was actually done to coincide with Koningsdag, not Sinterklaas.
- Trade shows and holiday gift fairs are fairly common in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The inaugural one for the Seattle area? The Tacoma Dome Holiday and Gift show, which takes place in mid-to-late October.
- In the United States, not only does Christmas music often start playing in mid to late October, but many stores will start putting away Halloween merchandise to make room for Christmas stock over a week before Halloween.
- This happens for multiple holidays in Australia
- Much like Europe, Australia lacks any major holidays in the September to November periodnote , and as such Christmas goods, including perishable food items that have no hope of lasting until Christmas, start showing up in late September
- Meanwhile major Australian supermarket chains have been censured and in some locations even fined for putting hot cross buns on sale during the first week of January and in some cases even Boxing Day (December 26), even in years where Easter occurs late.