Why Should Halloween Make Way for Christmas Already?

On my way back to my flat one evening, I walked by the long row of shops I pass every day. It offers the usual mix of clothes, stationery, and flashy jewellery that makes up most high streets – add in a few vape bars and nail salons and you could convince me it was my home town. What made this trip noteworthy was one shopfront’s decorations; scattered along the ground was a saddening assortment of pumpkins, spiders, and a few ghosts. Props, naturally. In their old place sat a garish Christmas-themed façade with far too much tinsel and sparkle for me. In the couple of days since the end of October, Halloween had been shoved off and Christmas given the top spot. The day that had dominated the seasonal aisles of supermarkets not even a week ago had been relegated to a pitiful prop pumpkin that nobody could be bothered to throw away.

This bothered me. I’d always known that, of all the holidays, Christmas is indisputably top dog, at least in mainstream commercial society. I understood that when Christmas comes around, everything fades to make room for it, even if it’s another landmark occasion. I have friends whose birthdays have about as much social significance as a cloudy day because they were born within a month’s proximity to Christmas. A birthday is a prevalent part of someone’s personal calendar, regardless of whether they entertain gifts or not, and Christmas erodes that by upstaging it. Seeing the corpse of Halloween litter that shop floor, however, made me realise that Christmas upstages everything. It’s relentless.

Most people start building their anticipation for Christmas as soon as December begins, writing off over three weeks of that month. The same people keep the festive feeling going once Christmas passes on Boxing Day, and you’re kidding yourself if you think New Year’s is anything more than Yuletide’s dying husk, a surrogate Christmas to tap into the few leftover drops of goodwill. December is Christmas. In comparison, within hours of passing by, Halloween is torn from displays and tossed into skips and storerooms if it’s lucky. Nobody rolls into Bonfire Night trying to keep Halloween going with a healthy stash of ghoulish fireworks and Tim Burton films. There aren’t aisles and aisles of Halloween paraphernalia suddenly appearing mid-September. Halloween is a reluctantly-mumbled school play next to the dazzling West End production of Christmas.

It’s not simply that I prefer the aesthetic of Halloween (though that is very true), it’s deeper than that. I love the relatively low expectations of Halloween, partaking as little or as much as I feel like in an occasion that is fundamentally community-centric – I never see some kids in my town except on Halloween. By comparison, I can’t stand the endless stress of Christmas, having to get gifts for everybody I see regularly for fear of seeming a Scrooge or even just a bad person full stop. I’m fortunate that my friends don’t demand extravagant gifts, yet the pressure to ‘perform Christmas’ is still there from the irritating faceless entity of ‘society’. From 1 November onwards, society eats, sleeps, and breathes Christmas, with a big mug of Christmas coffee all the while.

Settling with a non-festive coffee, taking it down a notch, I realise something else. It’s often said that life’s beauty comes from its fleeting nature. That sounds deep, but it’s certainly difficult to contradict, and I think it applies well to Halloween. I moan about the pressures of Christmas, but the same stresses occur with any major event, such as a dazzling West End production. Halloween’s appeal stems precisely from its second-fiddle position; the fact that Halloween is so casually tossed aside for Christmas makes it seem relaxing, almost unimportant. It’s just a bit of fun in the darkening nights of autumn, a good time, and like all good times it ends far earlier than we’d like. I’m aware that I’ve bad-mouthed Christmas, presented it as this horrifically stressful time. I’m also aware that Christmas is horrifically stressful, but it’s also worth it in the end (albeit it’s never as ideal as we’d like). Christmas is a huge drain with a big payoff. As for Halloween, it’s a little bit of effort for a little bit of fun, quickly moved on from. Through this stark contrast, the cold and dark final months of the year offer a wide variety of events, paid for in Halloween’s shockingly slight lifespan.