X-mas ‘starting earlier every year’

Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Christmas really is arriving earlier each year, experts have confirmed.

People are now thinking about the festive season as early as mid August – almost three months earlier than in 2007 – according to a study of internet searches for terms such as “Santa Claus”, “elf” and “presents” published by the Royal Statistical Society (RSS).

Data analyst Nathan Cunningham looked at the volume of Christmas-related Google searches in each of the past six years to work out the probability of each week being defined as “Christmas” or “not Christmas” with the help of cluster analysis and an algorithm he originally created for research into fossil pollen.

He found that from a relatively late start of November 11 in 2007, we have turned our minds to Christmas as early as August 19 in 2012.

Christmas started on October 12 in 2008 and August 30 in 2009 before a slight delay to October 3 in 2010 and September 11 in 2011.

However the last two years have seen the start settle at August 19 and August 25.

Mr Cunningham’s results are included in a paper entitled Does Christmas really come earlier every year?, which earned him a runner-up prize in this year’s Young Statisticians Writing Competition organised by the RSS and Significance magazine.

Describing his findings as “a little startling”, Mr Cunningham said: “From a seemingly late beginning of November 11 in 2007 we had begun turning our minds to thoughts of the festive season as early as August 25 in 2013.

“While this of course seems absurdly early it should be borne in mind that the beginning of the Christmas period here reflects a marked change in our mindsets to thoughts of Christmas, and not the beginning of the full-blown holiday season.

“Nevertheless, it would appear that the prevailing notion is correct: Christmas is indeed coming earlier every year.”

RSS executive director Hetan Shah said: “This is a great example of using publicly-available statistics to take a fresh look at an age-old debate.

“Whilst many of us haven’t even started our Christmas shopping yet, this study suggests people are turning their minds to the festive period earlier and earlier.”

Published: Tuesday 11th November 2014 by The News Editor

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