Dust off the fairy lights, warm up the toddy; Christmas time is here again

When does Christmas actually begin? You may remember, back as we started a new year and the last embers of the Christmas fire smoldered in the fireplace, that we’ve already asked the converse of that question. I’m not sure we ever reached a convincing answer.

And yet, if the end of Christmas may be up in the air, it’s still not in the same league of temporal vagueness as its beginning. Because unlike the end, the actual beginning of Christmas is not just bound up in tradition or liturgical fineries – it’s deeply connected to much more prosaic matters, and to winter itself.

St Martin's Day – just one of many late-autumn festivals that could be considered a spiritual forebear to the Christmas season.

St Martin’s Day – just one of many late-autumn festivals that could be considered a spiritual forebear to the Christmas season.

Here in the big city, many months from the first snowfall, the first signs imploring us to commercially indulge in their Christmas trade were up in September already. That, I think most of us would agree, is way too early. And yet, as the stores in November have begun to play Christmas hits, cafés start offering Turkey sandwiches and the Christmas lights on our high streets have been switched on, the desire to get back into the season has been strong, however much one realises we’re in the grip of what the cognoscenti would identify as Christmas creep. The Christmas season, once confined to December at the very earliest – and even earlier being confined to the period after Christmas day – has slowly crept back in time to cover much of the preceding month, too.

But to an extent, it’s like we’ve always had that seasonal drive towards a festive season. November, across the northern hemisphere, is littered with festivals of light, warmth and togetherness: From All Soul’s Day to Bonfire Night and onto St Martin’s Day and Thanksgiving, November is clearly a month that bears the spiritual portends of Christmas to come. The cold weather makes us huddle together, and the pull of the oncoming winter depth is something long celebrated.

So while almost any day might have been a good starting point in this dark season, we’ve opted to relaunch today, November 25th, and not only because it’s when many 24-hour Christmas radio stations start broadcasting. It’s black friday, infamous shopping free-for-all that perhaps more than anything symbolises the destructive side of the season, but also just before the start of the gentle, hushed waiting that Christians observe in the season of Advent. It’s a time embodying all the good and bad the season might bring. More practically, it’s precisely a month before Christmas day, as good a starting time as any.

This year, we’ll be bringing you more reviews and features, at a more measured pace than last year. You’ll have the first one in your merry feeds by the weekend. A new addition, one that you’re welcome to look at straight away, is our top 100 Christmas records of all time list, which serves as an archive of our most beloved album favourites that have perhaps too fleetingly plassed by the front page. If you’re new to the website, it’s a great place to start, or read our introductory feature from last year.

Welcome, young and old, to another season of joy and wistfulness in the strange world that is Christmas.

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