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Lehigh Valley Local News

'Yule' be enjoying the speed of the holiday creep. Or not

Picture of an assorted section of Halloween candy and decor at a grocery store.
Grace Oddo
Halloween candy lines the shelves at the Middletown Weis on Tuesday, August 22.

  • Halloween and Christmas decorations already up in retail stores across the Lehigh Valley
  • Described as "The Christmas/Halloween creep," it's a way for stores to keep profits flowing and to allow customers to get holiday shopping done early
  • Reactions from the community are mixed

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Like many in this community, Meredith Cummings is a self-identified “Lehigh Valley transplant.”

Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Cummings moved to Bethlehem last year to begin professing at a local university.

Now that she’s settled in, she said she loves everything the little corner of Northeast Pennsylvania has to offer — the food, the kindness of the people, the proximity to metropolitan areas.

But one thing sticks out in particular for her and her daughter.

“I just love the way people celebrate the holidays here. I mean, really celebrate."
Meredith Cummings, who describes herself as a "Lehigh Valley Transplant"

“I just love the way people celebrate the holidays here,” she said through a chuckle. “I mean, really celebrate."

Her daughter, Isabel, is so enthused about the upcoming holiday season that she's already asking mom when she can take out the decoration boxes.

In the Valley, Halloween candy and decorations have lined the shelves of local retailers since July. The earliest noted spotting was pumpkins and Christmas lights in the Trexlertown Hobby Lobby on July 8.

The Oklahoma-based crafting store made no efforts to tuck the decorations out of the public eye: Pumpkin-spiced candles and assortments of apple potpourri smacked your nostrils the moment you walked through the sliding doors.

Other retailers are following suit, too. Spirit Halloween, a Halloween costume and accessory retailer, now has two locations open in the Lehigh Valley with three more “opening soon,” according to their website.

Bath and Body Works, a personal care and home fragrance company that is notorious for jumping the gun on seasonal smells, rolled out its Halloween collection on July 24.

The high temperature in Bethlehem on July 24 was 85 degrees.

So what gives?

Christmas/Halloween creep

The phenomenon is known as the “Christmas/Halloween Creep,” a term used to describe retailers selling holiday-related products much earlier than expected in order to keep profits flowing and to let consumers accomplish shopping early.

According to Merriam Webster, the term can be celebrated in a positive fashion or “functions as a shorthand for the existential dread and disgust that many people feel at the apparent increasing commercialization and banality of the season.”

“She’s already been asking me when we can get the Halloween decorations out. It’s so exciting just to be excited.”
Meredith Cummings, speaking about her daughter, Isabella

According to Cummings, the Lehigh Valley transplant, people down South celebrate the holidays differently.

“It’s just because of how hot it is down there all the time," she said. "People celebrate Christmas in shorts. It just doesn’t feel right.”

Now, she lives in a part of the country where pumpkins line the main stretch of Bethlehem during autumn and Halloween is celebrated with joyous fervor.

During Christmas, forget about it — with Christkindlmarkt, the yearly tree lighting or silent snowfalls, Cummings said she feels privileged to live in a place dubbed The Christmas City.

As per her daughter, Halloween and Christmas give both her and mom traditions to carry out every year.

Their favorite, Cummings said is literally “decking the halls” with autumnal and Christmas decor. Their cats, including one-eyed Ted, willingly participate, too.

“She’s already been asking me when we can get the Halloween decorations out," Cummings said. "It’s so exciting just to be excited.”

Not everyone in the community feels quite the same way.

Reactions are mixed

People who responded to a LehighValleyNews.com outreach on social media about the Christmas/Halloween creep had mixed reactions.

Martha Burgos of Bethlehem said, “I understand that for marketing purposes stores roll out the decorations a season or two in advance, but it’s not for me.

“I prefer to buy what I need when I need it. Seeing Halloween and Christmas merchandise out this soon is like chasing summer away.”

Shonda Moralis, a psychotherapist, author and women’s empowerment coach, said, “Early decorations pull us out of the present moment. I feel like this practice breeds anxiety; the feeling like the holidays are coming and we're not ready or prepared.”

Conversely, early prep can be comforting and reassuring, she said, and can offer a sense of control and accomplishment.

"Some believe they will not be stressed or overwhelmed if they cross everything off their holiday to-do list early, yet tend to find other things to fill the worry/to-do list when the previous list is complete.

"Often, I see it causes people undue stress because they feel as if they are "behind" in preparing say, in October, for Christmas. It can also cause scarcity mindset — everything will be sold out, I'll miss out on the sales, etc.," Moralis said.

"Don't get me started on Black Friday which is now happening on Thanksgiving," she said.

"Life is busy. Life can be mundane. We all have more than our fair share of responsibilities and activities that steal our time for shear enjoyment, away.
Dani Kroll of Whitehall Township

Some, like Cummings, don’t seem to mind.

“Halloween is my holiday," Brian Miller of Bethlehem said. "I’m going to decorate my yard during Labor Day weekend.”

Tabitha Lewis of Northampton said, “Halloween can wait until mid-September, but I really do love Christmas.

"I leave my lights and tree up all winter to add a little cheer in the dark and dreary winter months. I extend Christmas in the opposite direction.”

Overall, it seems as if reactions from the community pertaining to early decorations are mixed. Some are rushing to put out pumpkins, others would rather wait.

Dani Kroll of Whitehall Township asks us, all of us, to consider the source of where the need to celebrate comes.

"Life is busy," Kroll said. "Life can be mundane. We all have more than our fair share of responsibilities and activities that steal our time for shear enjoyment, away.

"Whether people who put their lights up early do so because the time to do so is convenient, because they want to decorate before it gets too cold, because they and/or their children look forward to the holiday so much that they just can't wait or simply for the joy of doing so, I look forward to seeing what they have put on display. I never tire of it," Kroll said.