Why do Easter eggs in January annoy us so much?

People are getting very cross about Easter eggs. Specifically, that they are already on sale in some UK supermarkets, despite the fact that the mince pies are barely off the shelves. The Mirror reported that shoppers – ie a handful of grumpy Twitter users – were “incensed”.

The hard, hollow, ovoid truth is that the Co-op has been selling Easter eggs since just after Boxing Day. Why? Because the eggs sell, damn it. “Sales figures show that many customers will buy Easter eggs as soon as they can,” it says. Plus, the stores have limited backroom space, so products go on the shelf as soon as possible. Other stores, such as Lidl, opt for a more prudent selling date of 1 March.

But the real question here is: why do we care? Susan Lawrence, an analyst at the Institute of Psychoanalysis, says : “Being faced with displays of Easter eggs so soon after Christmas is rather like a baby having another spoonful of food forced on them when they are already full. It’s as if we are not allowed to digest the festive season, or to wait until we are hungry again and look forward to the next mouthful. This causes people to react with rage, as what could be a special pleasure is turned into yet another commercial demand.”

Dr Graham Music, a consultant psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman NHS foundation trust, adds: “Putting Easter eggs on shelves so soon after mince pies is a kind of boundary crossing; people need to compartmentalise Christmas, which can have a very particular meaning, and Easter, which doesn’t have that depth of significance unless you’re a practising Christian. It almost feels like the one pollutes the other.”

If we don’t want to see Easter eggs on the shelves in January, we must put our money where our outrage is: resist buying them until March.

When the stores say they sell them

Co-op From late December. “Our stores often have limited backroom space, which means products go on shelf when space appears. Sales figures also show that many customers will buy Easter eggs as soon as they can.”

Ocado From late December. “We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to plan ahead and allow crucial flexibility for busy shoppers to place their orders at a time that suits them.”

M&S Wouldn’t specify a date. “We have a small selection of Easter-themed chocolates, such as mini chocolate eggs and bunnies, available in stores now as we know that some of our customers like to buy these early.”

Aldi From 25 January. “It’s in line with the rest of the market.”

Lidl From 1 March. “We’ve always sold Easter eggs at this period as this is when we see demand from our customers.”