Christmas may still be months away, but mince pies and selection boxes are already being stacked on shelves in many supermarkets across the UK.
While we don’t usually start counting down the days to Christmas in September (though there’s 105 if you were wondering), this year our festive plans have been somewhat thrown into turmoil thanks to changes in restrictions about the number of people that can attend social gatherings.
And while we’d typically wait until we’ve scoffed the last of the Halloween sweets before we start stocking up on the mince pies, social media posts warning that Christmas may well be cancelled this year, have left us feeling uncertain.
Suddenly we’re just not sure if we’ll be able to fight great aunty Susie for the last Orange Cream this Christmas.
Following the discovery of festive-lined shelves, shoppers headed to social media to share their surprise at seeing Yuletide stock when we’ve not yet put away our summer sandals.
Selection boxes and mince pies aren't the only festive items making an appearance on store shelves, John Lewis has launched its Christmas range earlier than ever, (ten days earlier than last year), thanks to popular demand.
The store says customer searches on its website for Christmas products are already up 370% on last year.
The most searched-for products on the John Lewis site are Christmas trees, baubles, cards, lights and wrapping paper.
Jason Billings-Cray, John Lewis’s Christmas buyer, said: “Christmas always provides a reason for celebration and a welcome break. Understandably, it looks as if people are looking forward to and planning for it earlier than ever this year.
“Christmas celebrations mostly take place in our homes and we have seen how the lockdown has made people think more about their homes, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that people are already thinking about how they will decorate their homes this Christmas.”
Waitrose has also seen an increase in Christmas searches, which are up 42% on last July and August.
Searches for mince pies are up by more than 110% and the supermarket chain has also recorded a 400% rise in searches for mincemeat, as families hit by the home baking trend in lockdown consider making their own mince pies.
So what’s going on? Is Christmas starting earlier than ever this year?
According to Andy Barr, personal finance expert and co-founder of online price tracking website www.alertr.co.uk, there are various reason we’re jumping into Christmas in September.
“Love it or hate it, Christmas has definitely started earlier this year than ever before,” he says.
“This is likely due both to a mix of giving people something to look forward to and encouraging purchases, but also to avoid potential rushes nearer December.
“We are already facing restrictions, which could seemingly become more stringent the closer we get to Christmas, so having all the displays out now allows Britons to plan ahead and get what they need now, rather than having to panic buy nearer the time.
“For all we know, we could be in a second lockdown by then, so it will go back to buying online; it’s very much a case of getting stock on the shelves while shops are still open.”
Chris Field, managing editor at Retail Connections, says another reason Christmas may appear to have come earlier this year is because time is a more fluid concept for home dwellers.
“The usual shopping peaks – Black Friday, Halloween, Christmas – will continue to overlap, as they had already started to over the last five years,” he explains.
“Ultimately, it’s a combination of boredom, price sensitivity and of course, fear and uncertainty about the future.
“If you were worried your Christmas was going to be spoiled, wouldn’t you stock up on goodies right away?”
But Barr has a word of warning for anyone thinking of stockpiling the selection boxes.
“We must advise people to check the use by date if they are to buy Christmas food products months beforehand, as they might not be up to scratch by the time Christmas comes round,” he says.
This isn’t the first time the subject of Christmas starting early has been raised.
Dr Peter Christenson, a professor of rhetoric and media studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, previously issued a warning that playing Christmas music too early could be bad for our health.
Speaking with the Daily Mail, he explained that overloading on Christmas-themed melodies can have an impact on our mental wellbeing because it reminds us of the financial and emotional stress of a season that is meant to be joyful, but can be fraught with pressure.
So while we may well hold off sticking on the Christmas megamix as our WFH soundtrack, a little mince pie for elevenses won’t hurt now will it?