We see it every year. Christmas creeping ever earlier – cards in the shops by September, the first trees and tinsel appearing in October and those ‘catchy’ Xmas tunes of the 70s are playing by November. The Grinches of course complain; 12 days of Christmas, not 42 days, they say.
My American readers may not get this, as you have a lot of hullaballoo over Halloween, then Thanksgiving too. However, you did start the accursed ‘Black Friday’ which has now infected this side of the pond and this year trespassed onto my birthday. In Britain, Halloween is still mostly for kids and Goths, whilst Thanksgiving is reserved for expat Yanks (and just misses my birthday annually too). That November birthday was an important milestone for me as a kid. ‘No Christmas talk until after my birthday!’ was my petulant rule. I didn’t want cheapskate relatives conflating two gifts into one, or my party being upstaged by elves and department-store Santas. Once I had a daughter with a slightly later November birthday this became an even easier rule to police.
Then practicality started to erode my principles. Children, nephews, nieces, significant others and close relatives all deserve presents. I’m a rubbish present buyer, and hate going shopping on precious weekends, so squeeze it into lunch hours. At one present per lunch hour, that’s a long lead-in time. Move to an island, and the lead-in lengthens with those last posting dates and annoying customs rules.
The net result is that I have to start shopping in October so I can drop off gifts as I work my way at sub-Santa speed around the UK. Who can blame retailers for wanting to sell to me? Island life of course poses the logistic issue of boats delayed by weather, shops selling out by December, or never actually stocking the desired items at all; ‘we won’t have a delivery before Christmas’. Really? You are Amazon’s best friend, local retailer.
Once the starting sleighbell has been rung, I admit to being a complete Christmas fan. Carols, Dickensian cards of Christmas-that-never-was, cheesy tunes of yesteryear, turkey and roasties, mint chocs, port, wine, desert wine, beer with turkey sandwiches in front of the movie, Queen’s message to the Empire, bringing a tree inside, trimmings, parties, prezzies, relatives, Dr Who Special, the lot. Apart from the weather, which out here is usually rain, wind, or wind-with-rain.
But this year, Christmas can’t come early enough. I’m sensing it everywhere, a palpable wish to get started on all that hedonism reeled off in the previous paragraph. 2018 has been a grim year of sliding hope. Brexit is depressing and boring, no matter which way you voted (or wished you had voted). The world of Trump and Putin is a fearful place full of conspiracy and rivalry, in which critical problems such as climate change are being forgotten. 2018 has been at best uninspiring. Perhaps this is why people all around me are plunging into Christmas with glee. ‘Tis the season to be merry, so let’s be merry as soon as we can for as long as we can.
I’m still holding off buying that tree until December, but the boxes of trimmings are already down from the loft and waiting. Half the presents are bought, the cards are ready to be written. On the internet radio there’s a US ‘Christmas Country’ station allowing some escape from the standard 40 UK Christmas pop songs. The Garden Centre is blowing faux snow around and animatronic penguins serenade the shoppers.
I’ve even been to my first ‘Christmas Dinner’ – on my birthday!
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