Rock around the Christmas tree? I haven't started hollowing out my Halloween pumpkin yet
As shops roll out their festive wares earlier each year, maybe we should start a boycott, writes Mairia Cahill
'I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need, and I don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree." This year, Mariah, I hear you, girl, only all I want for Christmas at the minute is for it to do one.
It's far too early for such nonsense, not that Gatwick Airport has got that particular message, putting up their Christmas tree this week - a spectacular silver ensemble with presents underneath and shiny star on top.
Not to be outdone, Belfast also got in on the act, erecting its city centre Christmas lights. It's not even All Souls' Night yet, for pity's sake, yet the festive season has been foisted upon us. Well, bah humbug to them.
Forgive me for the Scrooge-like attitude, but I happen to love Halloween. Kicking through the autumnal leaves, watching the moon brighten on a crispy, clear evening, the rising excitement of my daughter as she decides on her costume and going through the "how many more sleeps, mammy?" routine until she can wear it. Pumpkin-carving, apple-bobbing... what's not to like?
On Sunday, we decided to go shopping for some new, scary decorations for the house to stave off some of the building excitement. Imagine my horror as we walked up the Halloween aisle to the strains of some gadget singing, "Rocking around the Christmas tree, have a happy holiday".
Thinking I was going mad, I swivelled my head to the other side of the aisle. There, facing the skeletons, nestling among four-foot Advent calendars and tacky red and gold tinsel, sat the culprit. A small dancing (and highly annoying) singing Christmas tree. What's next, Easter bunnies on January 1?
Now, Santa and I have a deal. He and his elves are on much-needed leave until December. Other smug parents may acquire his services before I do (and put their annoying statuses online about having all their present orders in), but it's the only way I can cope with the festive season.
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Small doses, leave it to the last minute, lest the small child change their mind for the umpteenth time, and dash at breakneck speed on Christmas Eve to the North Pole for anything forgotten.
Don't get me wrong, once it comes I enjoy it as much as anyone else - the smell of cinnamon wafting through the house as presents are wrapped and the choirboy carols to soothe the soul are magical. But it's a long, tiring road to that point and, once it's over, I'm ready for sleeping until it comes around again.
Which is why it is an absolute pain to be in mid-October, surrounded by consumerism gone crazy. It's no longer the season to be jolly when the season, which used to be six weeks at a stretch, is now stretched over three months of torture for the parents among us.
Annoying toy commercials every five minutes (and, of course, every toy seen is wanted). Protracted negotiations while trying to remind children that Santa can't carry every toy on the planet in his sleigh. The television is bad enough - do we really need our shops to up the ante also?
Slowly, year on year, Christmas is starting earlier, as greedy stores zap the magic out of it completely. You have to hand it to them, though. Overtaking Halloween by putting out the fake fir trees before they've even got the pumpkins out takes some doing.
Seeing festive decorations at the minute makes me want to take the little drummer boy's sticks and rap the knuckles of every store manager within a 10-mile radius. And I'm surely not on my own to curse under my breath at the very thought of Christmas in October.
Parents find the whole thing energy-draining at times. Yes, but spare a thought for those who are lonely, or for whom the season is a reminder of those no longer with us. It's hard enough in December, but 10 weeks out from the day itself is a bit much by anyone's standards.
Which is why I think we should all do the sensible thing and boycott the buying of anything which even resembles a bauble, resist the urge to bulk-buy tins of sweets (even if they are on offer) and ignore the mince pies for another few weeks. Let's face it, they'll still be there in December.
What a message to send to those who would rather we jingled all the way to their tills in a three-month festive frenzy. Let's just, for now, pretend it isn't happening and celebrate one occasion at a time. Let mini-ghouls and goblins and witches and warlocks enjoy the Halloween preparations and boo to the Christmas bogeymen. Santa can stay stuck up the chimney for a little while longer, for all I care.
Fionola Meredith is away