This year on Nov. 1, I woke up to sunlight pouring through my bedroom windows. I could see beautiful orange and red leaves cascading through the autumn breeze. With my morning coffee in tow, I stepped onto the porch in my favorite dark-wash jeans, high-top converse and coziest cable-knit sweater — ready for my walk through the campus’ picturesque fall landscape to my Tuesday classes.
Although I have lived in Michigan my whole life, I couldn’t help but photograph the new and vibrant colors of the trees outside the Law Quad. As I walked under their branches, blood orange leaves tinted and fractured the sun’s rays, creating the most beautiful display of light and color.
I know that I sound like one of those fall-obsessed girls with their pumpkin spice lattes and brown-shaded monochromatic outfits. And while I assure you my enthusiasm for fall pales in comparison to their Gilmore Girls-themed Pinterest boards, I feel compelled to romanticize the season in the presence of Ann Arbor’s plentiful foliage and Halloween spirit. Of course, Nov. 1 signified the end of Halloween celebrations. But on Tuesday, my social media pages were flooded with new photo-evidence of the halloweekend’s festivities, reinvigorating my fall-focus on apple picking, pumpkin patches and costume ideas for future years.
Later in the afternoon, I waltzed through the crisp autumn air and into my usual Starbucks location for a post-lecture study session and routine caffeine fix. After a Hallmark-worthy autumn day, the last thing I expected to hear playing over Starbucks’ lounge was Micheal Bublé’s Christmas album. But, to my surprise, the holiday-themed cups, sugar cookie lattes and crimson red menus had returned — instantly branding Nov. 1 as the start of 2022’s holiday season.
When I returned home to spooky decorations and the remaining Halloweekend clean-up job, I felt strangely behind on the season and a little cheated out of the month of November. As a kid, my family was strict about waiting until after Thanksgiving to partake in any holiday activities including, but not limited to, Christmas music, tree decorating, “Home Alone 1,” “Home Alone 2,” Christmas shopping and Christmas lights. As I got older, the strictness subsided. And now, as the resident Thanksgiving-dinner hostess, my mom rolls past the Bath & Body Works’ autumn-scented candles and instead beelines toward their holiday collection. In fact, she chooses to skip the fall-influenced home decor for Thanksgiving dinner altogether.
At first, I found Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving alarming, but now, I simply view her decision as a matter of good home economics. The Bath & Body Works’ holiday collection, for example, was available in stores this year on Oct. 23. With the holiday’s preemptive arrival in stores, it’s only logical to skip the middle-man between Halloween and Christmas and avoid decorating for, and subsequently spending money on, Thanksgiving, which goes out of style soon after it’s even acceptable to display your child’s hand-turkey artwork.
People have very strong opinions about the premature Christmas season: Some choose to embrace the joy of the holiday, while others avoid any and all winter celebrations until they’ve finished the last of their Thanksgiving meal. Some even wait until Dec. 1 to play Christmas music. But, regardless of personal preference, the push for Pillsbury Christmas cookie dough and holiday-inspired merchandise is bleeding into the fall season through the late weeks of October and early November.
I can’t help but wonder: What is the driving force behind America’s rush to the Christianized holiday season?
According to Professor Devon Powers, communications and media professor at the University of Michigan, the preemptive arrival of the season is a result of capitalistic strategies and economic instability from COVID-19, combined with a general demand for holiday cheer and its subsequent merchandise.
“It’s difficult to judge this particular holiday season compared to previous holiday seasons because we are still in the aftermath of COVID-19,” Powers said. “Everyone is still worried about supply chains.”
Powers says the earlier arrival of holiday collections can be partly correlated with the instability of production and shipping-related obstacles that were ever-present during the pandemic. Powers notes that companies witnessed the detainment of boats at ports and delayed shipping due to COVID-19 regulations. As a result, corporations have been thinking ahead and trying to secure products early to avoid the potential supply issues they’ve observed over the last two years.
“When stores are getting their holiday shipments in early, because they’re worried about getting them in late, it also means that they have all that holiday stuff in their warehouses, taking up space” Powers says. “If they get their holiday shipment in the middle of October and wait to sell until the second half of November, it’s just sitting there until they decide to put it on the market.”
While Powers acknowledges COVID-19’s influence on economic activity and marketing strategies, she also notes that there is an incentive for retailers to capitalize on holiday spirit and festivities.
“There is certainly an expansion of all of the big holidays: Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, for example,” Powers says. “They are getting more commercial, and there is a constant incentive to make them into more opportunities for shopping … A lot of retailers go in the black (realizing net profit) during this part of the year, where they may be running at a loss throughout the other months. So, there is very little downside for them (retailers) to try and expand the season out a couple of weeks.”
Powers references the phenomenon of a “continued celebration” throughout the fall and winter months, especially. She observes how companies and consumers alike are constantly jumping to the next holiday at the conclusion of another, always looking forward to the next thing. This demonstrates the supply and demand sequence that continues to drive the holiday season forward.
“There has to be a demand equation in there, it’s not just corporations,” Powers says. “If you love Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes or the red cup, and they come out, and you’re excited about it, then that is a signal that you like it — which is worth the premature arrival, even if you’re getting annoyed by (these products being released) two weeks earlier.”
In Michigan and other midwestern states, it becomes significantly colder and darker as the month of November unfolds. On Nov. 7, I walked to an hour-long meeting at 5 p.m., admiring the sunshine-filled autumn day. When I left the building at 6 p.m., the blue sky was replaced with the stars, moon and black horizon typically reserved for the darkest hours of the night. Many people find the late fall and winter months particularly difficult and demotivating for this reason.
For those who find joy in the holiday season, red Starbucks cups and Christmas music’s early arrival may help combat the mood-dampening effects of a 5:30 p.m. sunset. LSA freshman Vanessa Rodriguez is one of those students.
“I started listening to Christmas music after Halloween,” Rodriguez said. “It’s harder to be out in the cold and walk to my classes than it was in the warmer months … So I don’t mind it when stores decorate or play music earlier because I genuinely love Christmas and thinking about it puts me in a better and brighter mood. Overall, I would say an earlier holiday season has a positive impact on my mental health.”
Ultimately, while customers like Rodriguez may not explicitly ask for holiday products earlier, they don’t dislike it enough for companies to stop the expansion of the season.
In fact, it may just bring joy to enough people for retailers to have a marginal growth in sales and revenue throughout the fall. At least for me, it’s easy to enjoy the premature holiday while sipping on hot peppermint mocha from Starbucks’ iconic holiday-themed cups with new-found excitement for the winter season.
Statement Columnist Reese Martin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.