… It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in every store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door … ~ Meredith Wilson (1951) 
Is it just me? Or has Christmas caught you napping too?
Sure, the warning signs were there back in September, when Christmas wrappings, decorations and edible treats started to appear on supermarket and department store shelves. But that was way too early to tempt me. In fact, these early sightings of Santa and red-nosed reindeer, trees and wreaths, stars and bells, so disturbed me that I refused to walk down any aisle stocked with things Christmassy.
My former ‘time-poor yet wannabe organised’ self once relished the opportunity to wander these aisles at leisure and choose from the vast array of Christmas goodies before they were picked over by the masses. I enjoyed basking smugly in the glow of my efficiency and preparedness, knowing I’d snaffled my full complement of colour-coordinated decorations with matching serviettes, bonbons and miscellaneous tableware. And avoided the stress of a last-minute scramble for anything reflecting a modicum of good taste and the disappointment that would often follow.
However, my current ‘time-rich laid-back’ self still aims for organisational utopia but resents the implied pressure to purchase from over-zealous retailers and opportunistic product pushers. Several months of exposure to Christmas merchandise somehow diminishes the traditions of the season for me. I’ve read this described as ‘Christmas Creep’ and I like the connotations. Come Christmas Day, do you want to be so overwhelmed by festive fatigue that your inner Grinch is unleashed? And all you want to do is creep into the nearest corner with only your favourite tipple for company? Because your goodwill tidings are spent and you have no more ‘merry’ to make with family and friends?
This year I managed to avoid Christmas Creep, preoccupied instead with travel and a monster birthday month (October), then some elective medical procedures and a determined focus on getting this blog up and going (November). Consequently, the start of December came and went without the usual fanfare.
Normally, my kids Lizzie* and Will* are champing at the bit to put up the Christmas tree on December 1st. But this year their minds were on other things too. When I looked at the calendar and realised we were one week into the month, I decided enough was enough. The tree went up pronto, closely followed by the front door trimmings and a few smaller decorations inside. The outdoor fairy lights are a work in progress though. (In truth, most of the work involves convincing Ty* that they add essential festive ambience and are therefore a worthwhile investment of his time to erect.)
There’ve been grumblings in the press of late about the sub-standard nature of council-funded street decorations around the city and ‘burbs. I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. In truth, I’ve barely noticed them, which may be an indicator of just how unremarkable they are.
Clearly, we can’t compete with the extravaganza of lights, ornaments and trimmings on display in public places across the northern hemisphere. For one thing, we’re missing the magical elements of ice and snow. But a few homes in my neighbourhood have put up their token door wreaths, fairy lights, illuminating reindeer and ‘Santa please stop here’ signs, and most stores have decked their windows in tinsel and holly, Santas and sleigh bells.
What disappoints me is the lack of Christmas cheer. Scowls and comfortable shoes seem to be the uniform of shoppers on a mission to nab a bargain. ‘Waiting your turn’ is a foreign concept for some. Common courtesy is cast aside like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, as people muscle their way to the front of queues, taking their frustrations out on all retail staff within a two-mile radius (if, in fact, there are any!).
Side note: Could Myer try any harder to camouflage their pay stations? No wonder their profits are in the toilet. Shoppers can’t find a register or someone to operate it even when they do want to buy stuff! But I digress …
Heaven help the unfortunate shop assistant (once found) who can’t supply the perfect dress in Madam’s size or the catalogue item that Sir requires in the colour that sold out yesterday. I’ve been such a shop assistant in a previous life, so I know how trying it can be. The ones who bite their tongues and smile in the face of misplaced anger deserve a medal. Better still, a Christmas bonus! (“What are the chances?” she says with a wry smile.)
What we need is more Christmas carols piped through store radio to promote Christmas cheer. I suspect they’re an acquired taste, but I like them. And they add to the festive mood. I find the soaring melodies, rousing choruses and messages of peace and goodwill have a feel-good effect on me. Singing/humming along helps to pass the time while I stand in queues, searching for a pay station and watching the population of Grinches multiplying in front of my eyes.
Fun fact: Numerous studies have shown that the volume, speed and genre of music played instore influences consumer behaviour. So, retailers, get the music right and we might spend more time and money in your stores and behave better when we do.
Quintessential Christmas smells also contribute to Christmas cheer. For some, it’s the fresh pine scent of a lush, green tree; the fruity, spicy aromas of Christmas cakes and puddings; or the fragrance of frankincense oil in a burner or candle. For our family, it’s the aroma of freshly-baked shortbread straight from the oven. It never fails to elicit an appreciative response from the kids as they walk through the door. It also triggers lovely memories of my grandmother, whose recipe and method I faithfully follow.
When you stop to think about it, Christmas is probably the most sensory time of the year. Few other festivals or events on our calendar are associated with such immediately recognisable symbols and traditions. Nativity scenes, Santa, reindeer, tinsel, baubles only appear at Christmas. Carols are only sung/played at Christmas. Certain smells and tastes are only enjoyed at Christmas; for example, our culinary traditions of roast turkey, baked ham, plum pudding and shortbread.
As Christmas Day approaches, why not take a moment to savour these familiar, comforting sights, sounds, tastes and smells? And don’t forget your other sense of touch. Be generous with your hugs and kisses and hold those you love close at every opportunity. These are pleasures which have no cost, so it’s well worth embracing them during the festive season.
What Christmas sights, sounds, tastes and smells have meaning for you?
* names have been changed
 Wilson, M. (1951) It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Plymouth Music