Saturday, 20 October 2012

Christmas already?

Being originally Irish, I don't generally feel much culture shock after moving from the US to the UK. Driving on the left, the all important difference between asking for a 'ride' and getting a 'lift' home, the belief that a cup of tea can cure most ills, all this I can handle fairly deftly. What does my head in, though, is the Christmas mania of this country.

Maybe it's because I live in London and it's nothing if not commercial, but I still think that October is too early for Christmas. No one needs a three-month Christmas season - that's a full quarter of the year being bombarded by McV****'s seasonal biscuit tins. I'm not a big celebrator of American Thanksgiving. (you can read here what I was saying about it last year, though I might be coming 'round to the American way, slowly, year by year) I think gratitude is a lovely reason for a holiday, but its glorification of the forced colonization of North America and mass murder of Native Americans, sits a little uneasy with me. Perhaps if I'm completely honest, though, it's mainly because my family isn't American and national holidays really come from your familial culture, not the country where you live.

When I was growing up, my mother always used to say, "The problem with Thanksgiving is that it's too close to Christmas. Who wants two turkeys in a month?" For many years, I agreed and thought that the Canadians had it right, celebrating Thanksgiving in October. That gives a comfortable ten week break between the birds. Then I moved to England.
It can't be time for this guy, yet...can it?

The English (I can't speak for the Scots or the Welsh) desperately need a late November Thanksgiving, for no other reason than to delay the start of Christmas. Neither Halloween nor Bonfire Night seem to hold enough sway over the British public to stave off the joyful displays of yuletide. In fact, earlier this month I was perusing the cheap plastic Halloween junk in the local supermarket when a total stranger stood next to me and harumphed.

"Can you believe the Christmas stuff is out already?"

"No. What do you mean?" I turned to look at the shelf behind me.

"Look! It's everywhere!"

And how right he was. We were faced with a wall of boxes and tins with Santas, snow and everything Christmas plastered all over it. In the beginning of October. Across from the witch hats and fake cobwebs. At the end of the aisle was a large display of fireworks urging people not to forget their pyrotechnics.

Despite the obvious delight that a holiday which included fun-sized chocolate bars, fireworks and gifts would be. This seems insane. Why not enjoy Halloween for a month? Revel in pumpkins (jack-o-lanterns are original Irish according to some sources!), treats, dressing up in costume and generally pretending to be a child again. The Americans have definitely got Halloween down. They are fantastic at it and it's my favorite holiday simply because of how much fun it was growing up.

Then, toward the end of October through the 5th of November we could all revel in Bonfire night. That's a great holiday. A holiday devoted to fires and blowing things  up? Fantastic! Thanks for taking the short end of the stick on that one, Guy Fawkes. Teenage boys across Britain are forever in your debt.

After all that fun, I'd be ready for Christmas. I even posit that I wouldn't complain about an extra couple of weeks of yuletide celebration beginning in the second week of November. I think I could handle seven weeks of it, it's twelve that seems excessive.

All this, from someone who really loves carols, decorating the tree, visiting with family and everything else that comes with the holiday season. I just like it to be something special, a couple of weeks, not months of interminable commercialism.

So until the second week of November I refuse to look at that aisle in the supermarket. I won't be humming Jingle Bells. I won't be purchasing anything that looks remotely related to Christmas. In the next two weeks, I'll carve my pumpkin and munch on mini chocolate bars. Then I'll moan about how you have to pay to see fireworks on Bonfire Night. And then, after all that, I'll think about fishing out the Christmas tree. But when we do get it out, we'll enjoy an evening of carols, some wine and truly embrace the season.

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