It’s 26th October. Officially under two months to go until Christmas. And here I am curled up with my laptop, my elf, and my fairy lights. As someone who has been anticipating this Christmas for rather a long time, I have to say I’ve felt a pretty intense sense of combined excitement and, quite frankly, anxiety-inducing horror as I’ve felt the autumn roll on. Overhearing the odd reference to Christmas plans (or even – heaven forbid – life after Christmas!), watching the Christmas merchandise expand, and seeing the adverts get into gear has made me all too aware of the advancing creep towards my ‘busiest time of the year’, or as some have put it, my ‘first Christmas on the job’. If my PhD has taught me anything so far, it has certainly given me a small insight into the bittersweet year-round realities of Santa’s workshop. My research elf Gelf has been sharing many a stressful story about the extensive preparations taking place through the summer in the North Pole, and we have together already begun to note many parallels!
I’ve been thinking for a while about when might be the right time to launch my official ‘fieldwork’ period. Of course, working in my own culture, thinking about a tangibly familiar phenomenon I have myself grown up with (and which now surrounds me most of the time in thoughts and conversations about my research!) has made for an extremely porous kind of ‘field’, in terms of both time and space. But somehow, now that we are past the two-month mark, and now that I’ve definitely had more than one ‘Christmas promotions’ brochure drop onto my doormat, this felt like as good a moment as any to launch the online part of my project!
In many ways, it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… and refreshingly for me not just in my reading material, but in the world outside! Clintons is full of Christmas cards, M&S has already been decked out with sparkly trees, Elf on the Shelf memes are spreading like wildfire, and my mum has started rehearsing ‘Jingle Bells’ with the kids at school.
And yet… if I were to reveal that I’m currently listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas album before we’ve even got to Halloween, I suspect most would be quite perplexed, and some perhaps even a little outraged. I am well aware that there’s still something quite odd, if not simply plain wrong, about the fact I am sitting here casually wearing my Christmas jumper as I write. But of course, I’m not really wearing it ‘casually’. I’m actually wearing it rather self-consciously. I’m wearing it deliberately to get myself into the right kind of mood to launch my Christmas project.
This calling in of the Christmas spirit may seem a little premature according to everyone else’s calendar. But of course, it won’t be long before my research assistant Gelf and I are joined by thousands of others in Britain and indeed across the world re-telling stories, re-playing music, re-visiting Christmas markets, and re-rehearsing specific and often formulaic personal rituals in a frantic and all too familiar attempt to get in the mood. At no other time of year do we regularly see this level of collective meaning making, this level of expectant and exorbitant preparation – this level of ‘getting in the mood’.
This is precisely why Gelf and I are fascinated by this season of the year. As we prepare for and get increasingly into the spirit of our fieldwork, we want to invite you to have a think with us about what that feeling of ‘getting in the mood’ is really like. More specifically, we want to explore what it is like to get in the mood for Christmas – what kinds of things or activities it might entail, what kinds of emotions it might make us feel, and when exactly we might feel the need to do it.
If you would like to join our pre-Christmassy conversation, please do log your story and let us know what personally gets you in the mood by commenting below or messaging us on Twitter or Facebook using #TheFestiveLog.