From a brief piece in the Gazet van Antwerpen by Gunter Willekens we get the very interesting news that Belgium has some sort of advertising “ethics code” that prohibits Christmas-related marketing prior to November 1. Now that’s an interesting solution (although perhaps also a “European socialist” one, like universal access to health care) to the annoying phenomenon of “Christmas creep” whereby Christmas advertising and even public decorations appear earlier and earlier in the year throughout the Western World. This weekly feature, for instance (careful: it’s mainly about American football), has constantly tracked (and bemoaned) this “Christmas creep” and now reports that it has now started to be noticeable even in August! (Go to the link but then scroll down about a third of the way, to the heading “Christmas creep.”) This restriction is all the more impressive when you consider that in Belgium the big loot-accumulating day for children (oh sorry: the Christmas holiday) is not December 25 – although there is an Xmas celebration then, too – but earlier, on 6 December, St. Nicholas’ Day. And it is in fact that St. Nicholas (better known as Sinterklaas and pictured above) who plays the big Christmas sugar-daddy, not any “Santa Claus.”
That “ethics code” provision, then, basically amounts to a prohibition on displaying good ol’ Sinterklaas’ image on advertising materials before November 1. But Willekens’ article further reveals that toy retailers and the like this year are pretty desperate to move their Xmas goods and so have already started sending out their advertisements, handbills, and the like using the obvious loophole: they simply don’t include Sinterklaas. But they do include promises of savings of up to 20% off regular prices.