Have you noticed that the holiday creep started extra early this year? I’m not talking about the 2019 Starbucks red cup debut on November 7. Or the Sirius stations that started playing Christmas music on October 25. Before that. Way before.
It was August 21, to be exact. While most of us were trying to squeeze in another beach day, waiting for our tomatoes to fully ripen and still enjoying south coast corn, PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) aficionados were rejoicing. That was the date Dunkin’ Donuts released its insidious pumpkin spice concoctions, putting the first nail in the coffin of summer. Not wanting to be left behind, Starbucks rolled out its fall menu on the 27th.
The way it was celebrated, you would have thought it was a holiday.
Truth is, it wasn’t that long ago that pumpkin was a special indulgence reserved for the holidays—not that long ago being prior to 2003, the year that Starbucks brewed the first PSL. Up until that point, pumpkin pie was a highly anticipated reward for gathering with family and choking down a forgettable Thanksgiving dinner. Devotees looked forward to that first glistening slice of spicy tart with the promise of more to come at gatherings during the coming weeks of the holiday season.
As a matter of fact, it was so highly anticipated, it’s the food item most often mentioned in Christmas carols.
In “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” it’s a highlight of the evening: “Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie/And we’ll do some caroling.”
It must have been some awfully good pie being served to make the 800-plus-mile drive referenced in “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays”: “And he was headin’ for Pennsylvania/And some homemade pumpkin pie.”
Maybe it was made by the same baker as the “Sleigh Ride” confection: “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy/When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie.”
But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and pumpkin spice coffee led to pretty much pumpkin spice everything. Candles, candy, hand soap, snack foods, cereals, Pop Tarts, counter sprays and even protein powder—the flavor and fragrance are now a ubiquitous harbinger of fall. And since we’re inundated with it a month before the official start of autumn, by Thanksgiving, it’s understandable why those eager fans, who just couldn’t wait, would be getting sick of it and the season.
Which leads to the crux of the problem. For years consumers have begrudgingly accepted that major retailers and e-commerce sites have to start their marketing campaigns early. Some of us may have even made purchases and put them aside for the holiday. But it’s now becoming popular for revelers to pack up the jack-o-lanterns and fall décor on October 31 to make room for Christmas on November 1. The holiday creep is now a full-on sprint.
Unfortunately, psychologists have provided justification for the practice. Experts claim people who put up their Christmas decorations sooner rather than later are happier. My theory is the early decorators are also the premature pumpkin spice people and this perceived holiday high is more likely the side effects of months consuming copious cups of coffee laced with stimulating caffeine, mood-boosting pumpkin and cinnamon and nutmeg—a natural psychotropic. I don’t have any definitive proof to back up my hypothesis, but neither do the psychologists.
I am, however, willing to bet if psychologists studied people who don’t approve of early decorating, they would find that the positive feelings of those who do would be cancelled out by those throngs of dissenters who just want to enjoy and celebrate one holiday and season at a time.