I went Christmas shopping last week. I went with my daughter Jo, and I really enjoyed it – the shopping, mum and daughter time, lunch out, all fabulous. But I can’t help casting my mind back to when I was a small child.
I remember my Mum and Dad taking me to Oxford Street one evening to see the lights. Despite the earlier rain, it was very busy, so many people, so many legs, so much to see. I held on tightly to mum and dads hands as we were jostled along. The shops were crammed with Christmas displays. In one window there was a nearly life-size crib scene, baby Jesus lying amongst the straw in the manger, gifts at his feet. Brightly lit Christmas trees leaned out at precarious angles from ledges high above the shop fronts. There were stars swooping across the street, myriads of twinkling lights reflecting back from the wet pavement. The smell of hot dogs and roasted chestnuts, a band playing carols across the street, a babble of excited voices. We went into a large store, and I remember Father Christmas beaming across a crowded toy department, belly shaking as he laughed. I sat on his knee, and his whiskers tickled when he whispered in my ear.
I look at todays lights, high-tech, cold white LEDs, strung high in the ceiling of impersonal shopping malls. Christmas songs blaring from open shop fronts. No Jesus, no manger. Father Christmas hidden away in glamourous grottos, where we pay for a peek and a ‘Ho ho ho’, but mustn’t touch.
Is it just that I’ve grown up, or have we actually lost something of the simplicity and essence of Christmas in the passing of time?