Published: 00:01, 10 September 2017
The picture says it all. Santa meets two youngsters, but look closer and all three are wearing shorts and the children are tucking into ice creams.
This scene marked the launch of Christmas parties at the Village Hotel in Maidstone.
But the venue is not alone in promoting the festive season seemingly early. Endless Facebook memes also celebrate a festive countdown, which as of today, stands at 105 days.
Yule Fest, the name of the Sandling hotel’s party offering began on August 18 with tasters offered of what’s to come, with a hog roast and food and drink samples. The foyer was decorated to the hilt, with a large tree topped with a star.
Staff say some are picking up the phone almost a year in advance to book their night out.
Matt Selch, the Village’s general manager said: “With a venue like ours, they want to guarantee their spot. We get inquiries throughout January, February, and March.”
Katie Latter, sales manager added that several bookings have been taken just from people seeing the Christmas tree.
The Village’s festive focus is backed up by research published in 2014, which confirms the festive period does indeed start earlier each year.
According to a study by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) internet searches for terms such as ‘Santa Claus’, ‘elf’ and ‘presents’ now increase markedly during the summer holidays.
Data analyst Nathan Cunningham looked at the volume of Christmas-related Google searches over six years and using a formula, worked out the probability of a certain week being defined as ‘Christmas’ or ‘non-Christmas.’
He found in 2007 we thought seriously about Christmas around November 11, but in 2013 and 2014, this had surged forward to August 25.
Shopping and public events have to be planned well in advance and it’s around now Fremlin Walk is working hard to make sure Santa’s reindeer are free for another appearance.
Rebecca Ward, from Frogbox marketing agency, which represents the shopping venue, said: “We start planning things in January. As soon as we finish the event we’re booking it again.”
The Christmas lights will be turned on on Thursday, November 23, at an event hosted by kmfm presenters with the appearance of local acts, X Factor stars and the cast of the Maidstone panto.
But what do shoppers think? James Batchelor, 28, from Maidstone, goes online a month before.
He said: “I do it online to avoid the crowds, and it’s easier.”
But he added summer shoppers have probably hit on a time and labour-saving way of doing things. He said: “It’s one less thing to worry about at Christmas time.”
Lisa Macpherson, 41, from Loose starts in October. She said: “It’s far too organised doing it any earlier – you can’t shop for Christmas in summer. You don’t enjoy it.”
Veronica Howard, 62, who was browsing in the shops at Fremlin Walk, does her shopping in December.
She said: “After the schools finish, you need a quiet few months.
"I have many birthdays in November and Halloween is a big thing now.”
Alister Wickham, 26, from Boughton Monchelsea leaves it until a couple of weeks before the big day to buy presents.
He said: “I’m not much of a shopper and I feel that sort of time is enough to still get meaningful things for people.”
But if you think your preparations are time-consuming, spare a thought for organisers of the Spirit of Christmas Fair, one of the UK’s biggest shopping events.
It takes place at London’s Olympia at the end of October and will need 90,000 cards, 55,000 light bulbs strung together and 10,000 baubles put on display.
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