LOOK out of the window. Does that look like spring to you? Didn’t think so. No daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze, no snowdrops poking their delicate little heads through the soil.
But despite the fairly obvious wintry storms battering our nation, the brains behind our high street stores don’t seem to have noticed.
For no sooner had Santa headed back off to Greenland for a well-deserved rest, than retailers replaced the tinsel and baubles of the Christmas period with chocolate eggs and pictures of the Easter bunny.
Some Christians have taken exception to this, posting on social media sites their displeasure at being told to mark Jesus’s death so soon after celebrating his birth.
But, whatever your religious leanings, this is most definitely not the time of the year to be even thinking about Easter.
The word “Easter” is thought to come from Estre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. The date of Easter, or in Scots, “pask”, is officially calculated in western cultures as the day of the first full moon after the spring equinox – this year, it falls on 20 April.
In both cases there’s that key word: spring. Easter Day is 14 weeks from now. Even Christmas retailing doesn’t start this early. I would dearly love to know who actually buys Easter goodies at this time of year.
It may be that breed of highly organised people who like to ensure their supply of foil-covered eggs is stashed away well ahead of time – in the event of a fire, flood or similar disaster which will stop them heading to the shops closer to the big day.
Or, I suppose it is possible that some actually find chocolate tastes nicer when moulded into the shape of a grumpy looking bunny rabbit and covered in gold paper – and like to indulge themselves of this special treat regularly from now until the middle of April. As if they haven’t got enough left in their Christmas selection boxes to keep them going for now.
More likely, it is perhaps more to do with the need to celebrate – or to be about to celebrate – something.
When I was younger, I went through a phase of playing a computer game which was called Caesar III. It was great – you started constructing a Roman town from scratch, beginning with roads and moving on to crops, marketplaces and amenities such as libraries and amphitheatres.
As well as making sure the citizens of your town were well fed and had access to necessities such as healthcare facilities, one of the most important things was ensuring that they were happy.
One of the ways to do this was to hold regular festivals. If you didn’t hold a festival for a while, a little box would pop up telling you that your citzens were becoming dissatisfied with you as ruler – and you would quickly have to organise one before unrest began.
Perhaps the retailers are trying to take on that role of ruling governor by expediting the advance of our next major festival.
There is no doubt that people feel the need to treat themselves in times of trouble.
During the recession, multiple surveys claimed that while people were struggling to pay their bills, occasional treats such as high-end meals, or luxury hotel stays remained a priority.
The fact is, humans need something to look forward to.
The something doesn’t need to be huge – it can be a nice cup of tea when you get home, or your favourite programme on telly. But without expectation that something fun is around the corner, things could sometimes get a bit boring.
Maybe instead of trying to eke out Christmas and Easter until they merge into a splurge of feasting which would rival the gluttony of the Regency period, we should look to a new festival to tide us over. What about creating a “Thank God Dry January is Over – Let’s Go to the Pub” festival on 1 February?
Or perhaps it would be more entertaining to expand an existing event. My vote is for a nationwide roll-out of the Blessing of the Throats, where sufferers of throat infections can be rid of their disease via the touch of two crossed candles at an ancient ceremony in St Etheldreda’s Church in London.
However bizarre, there’s always a chance that it might be more fruitful than gorging ourselves on chocolate bunnies for the next four months. You never know.