Why Does Christmas Creep Bother People So Much?

The Christmas Creep often shows up during beach season and makes us cranky.

Forget Thanksgiving, the Christmas Creep often shows up as early as beach season to make us cranky.

People rant about it, stick up their noses and generally disparage the phenomenon we here at Consumerist call Christmas Creep — the inevitable sliding of the holiday season until it runs into and often runs over Halloween, Thanksgiving and sometimes even summer fun — but what’s behind that grumpiness?

We know we don’t like it, but what is it about starting holiday sales earlier and earlier every year that gets crumbs in our bed sheets?

CBS Connecticut spoke with an expert at the Villanova School of Business, who says there are a few reasons we get cranky when stores start pushing holiday sales and displays on us earlier and earlier every year.

“One is tradition. Holidays in and of themselves are often separated by some demarcation … in time,” he explains. “The end of Thanksgiving is the proverbial start of the Christmas season. So people see this demarcation as being important in part because, when they overlap … it disallows people to fully engage in a holiday and enjoy themselves.”

Meaning that if you want to focus on celebrating Thanksgiving while the holiday is actually happening, having someone tell you to start thinking about Christmas is just too distracting.

Another professor from Le Moyne College says that by pushing the holidays upon us when it’s not actually time to enjoy those holidays makes it all feel less special.

“Saturating public space with earlier and earlier holiday fare is upsetting, because it violates and devalues the psychological role holidays play in our lives,” she said. “Their value depends upon their distinctiveness and special features. Earlier holiday décor separates us from the actual events that hold, and will hold, such emotional meaning for us.”

Basically by trying to get people ramped up for Christmas when they haven’t even bought a Halloween costume yet means that by the time the holiday actually rolls around, we’re all like, “meh.”

It’s not that we don’t even know we’re being manipulated by holiday advertising, it’s just that it’s so obvious what stores are trying to do and we don’t like that, says a psychology professor at Kansas State University.

“People see it as an attempt to manipulate them and get them to start shopping. People react against being told what to do or when to do it,” she said.”

Despite all of the above, it seems that pushing the holidays on consumers when we’re not ready for them yet makes us grumpy but it also works, a sign that could mean Christmas Creep is here to stay. Seeing a sign about holiday shopping in September might get your duff up but that doesn’t mean you won’t start spending.

Still, don’t push it too hard, retailers. Because we will snap.

“Given the displeasure so many consumers experience and voice, I expect that the practice might be counter-productive if it is overdone. At this time, business owners might ignore consumer complaints, because they feel that consumers have little choice,” the Le Moyne professor adds. “Holiday buying is so expected in our culture, that people feel obligated to buy gifts regardless of any irritation they might feel about early advertising.”

Stores Nationwide Begin Holiday Season Early Despite Negative Reaction [CBS Connecticut]