Long practice has made me very good at ignoring tinsel until well into December, but that isn't to suggest I dislike Christmas. On the contrary, I adore it.
That's rather the point. I do adore it, and I like adoring it and I'd be upset if my enjoyment was lessened by over-indulgence. So I ration myself. There are good historical reasons as well. Mr Rev and I were foolish enough to indulge in childbirth on 23 December. Son has never forgiven us. I went through a draconian few years forbidding the putting up of the tree until the other important birthday was over, but the family were more rational than me. Son pointed out that he'd rather have the tree up to enjoy for a little longer. I have caved in therefore, and our tree goes up sometime around the weekend before. That seems about right.
There are other events that mark the coming festival of course. I'm terrifically bad at religion at nearly all times of the year, but some things go bone deep and one of them is an advent crown. It's one of my annual challenges to find purple and pink candles to create this, along with finding a numbered advent candle with some chance of burning down its numbers in under 8 hours. I usually fail and compromise, but I enjoy making the effort. And as OCD behaviour goes, it's harmless.
There is also St Nicholas's Eve. December 6 marks his visits and he leaves gifts in the shoes of pleasing children. This one is a hangover from my childhood when my mother employed a particularly Catholic au pair from Austria. Doris introduced my sister and I to this custom and I made the fatal error of passing it on to my own son. Naturally he is unlikely to refuse the offer of free gifts, even if he also gets symbolic coal in the toe of his wellington on the way.
Before any of this however, is the real start. I walked down the theatre on Saturday morning (I teach 8 hours of non-stop classes that day) and saw it! The Christmas Parrot was leaning against a tree and waiting to be hoisted.
Some small explanation is needed for why our municipal decorations include a giant sized red parrot among the snowmen and santas. The story goes that he was purchased as part of a job lot of leftover Blackpool lights. Rather than hide him away, the Rotary Club decided to make a feature of him. Hence our annual light-turning on ceremony complete with mince pies and carols is adorned with the Parrot. He's pretty ancient now and a lot of his paint has chipped off, but he's the real symbol of Christmas starting for me.