Saturday, 18 December 2010

Whatever happened to Christmas?

As the years roll by, some of us start to get a bit tired of all the pre-Christmas razamatazz that seems to start earlier each year. Back here in the UK this year, the elves were waiting in the wings as early as mid November - and, as soon as Remembrance Day was over, the shopping malls switched on that Christmas muzac - doomed to run on a continuous loop for countless weeks.

Maddening as it all gets, it's not until you step outside that you realise Christmas has been neutralised. Like so much else these days, it's been transcended by political correctness. Our local council no longer wishes us a Happy Christmas in glittering lights strung perilously across the street. No, the banner now simply proclaims Season's Greetings. No particular season, just Season. Strangely though, it's only there in December - no sign of acknowledgement to religious festivals from January to November, then suddently the place lights up.

December means different things to different faiths of course - Hanukkah, Al-Hijira, Bodhi, Ashura, Yule and Christmas are all celebrated this month, but let's be honest, if it wasn't for Christmas falling on the 25th, how many towns and cities would put up a single light in celebration? Is it really so awful to acknowledge Christmas in public?

Back in BC, a different phenomenon has taken over. Holidays.

"Happy holidays" say the banners, the greeting cards and the word-perfect shop assistants. Where did "Happy holidays" come from? To a newcomer like me, it's a mystery. Is it more political correctness?  An imported trait from south of the 49th Parallel maybe? Or is it simply a ruse invented by greeting card manufacturers to ensure they can rotate their stock six times a year instead of once?

Whatever it is, it's good to know that,  lurking somewhere just beneath the surface, Christmas is still there. It must be. Walmart says so. 

This year could well be our last Christmas in the UK for a while. With luck, we will celebrate Christmas in Gabriola again next year. We were there in 2007, and again in 2009. Both times, Britain was paralysed by snow (well, a couple of inches, anyway) and Gabriola missed out - then when there was more than you could cope with in 2008, we were back here in the rain in England! It seemed we were doomed to miss out on the white stuff wherever we were. 

So, in 2010, the prophets of doom forecast a long, cold winter for Gabriola - and for Britain too. Who can we believe? Well, it started early on both sides of the pond, and we shall have to wait and see whether the predictions were right both times. In the meantime, here's evidence from the old country that, just occasionally, we do still see some snow. And yes, once there's an inch on the ground, the whole place still grinds to a halt.

Happy Christmas! (ooh, am I allowed to say that?)