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Christmas creep

noun [uncountable]

the tendency for Christmas products, decorations and advertising to be displayed earlier each year

'With more than a third of the year still to go and the summer holidays in full swing, Harrods launched its Christmas shop …. Despite the fact the opening will come some 143 days before Christmas, Selfridges insists that shoppers are already hankering for sleigh bells, snow and ideas for festive gifts. … The phenomenon of Christmas creep is being seen across the major retailers.'

Daily Mail 9th August 2006

Christmas creep can strike as soon as the summer holidays are drawing to a close, with Christmas products sneaking their way onto supermarket shelves as early as August

Some of us might still be lounging around on beaches or strolling about in our favourite pair of shorts, but it's, well, September already, and high time we were thinking about plush Santas and snowmen, reindeer napkins, wrapping paper, fairy lights and artificial trees … If all this pre-Christmas commercialism makes you wince every time you visit a local supermarket or department store, you'll understand only too well the phenomenon of Christmas creep, the tendency for commercial outlets to wheel out all their Christmas paraphernalia earlier each year.

Christmas creep can strike as soon as the summer holidays are drawing to a close, with Christmas products sneaking their way onto supermarket shelves as early as August. In the first instance, they have to compete with the orange glow of fake pumpkins and all Halloween-related merchandise, but by late October they're an overriding presence in most retail outlets.

Business experts argue that Christmas creep is the inevitable consequence of the Christmas season being absolutely crucial to retailers, who can substantially boost their takings by convincing customers that they should prepare for the festivities as early as possible. Retailers hope that having Christmas items out in late summer may generate additional purchases, not just early ones. In 2005, retail giant Wal-Mart brought its Christmas season forward in a climate of rising fuel costs, hoping to capture some spending before customers felt the strain on their budgets.

If you can't quite face the thought of Winter yet – frosts, thick overcoats and short days – at least remember that there are only 94 shopping days left till Christmas!


The term Christmas creep was first used in the mid-eighties, though gained wider recognition more recently, possibly due to subsequent coinage of the expression mission creep. Mission creep refers to the expansion of a project beyond its original goals, especially where this has undesirable consequences. It first appeared in 1993 in the context of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Somalia. Though it was originally used to refer to military operations, it now appears in a wide range of political and administrative contexts. It has spawned other expressions too, such as ad creep, the expansion of advertising to non-traditional places and objects, e.g. fruit, public toilets, and garbage cans, function/functionality creep, when an item or procedure designed for a specific purpose ends up serving another purpose for which it was not intended, and season creep, earlier spring weather and seasonal shifts caused by global climate change.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 18th September 2006.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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