This post began life as CHRISTMAS IN SEPTEMBER, but due to the powers of procrastination, and the indisputable fact that it is now October, I felt duty-bound to change the title. Regardless of what it is called, the premise remains exactly the same: Christmas – or rather, the associated advertising, bad music, fake snow and over-excitement – arrives all too prematurely.
I imagine that for those living within close proximity to small children, this over-early promotion of the festive season is something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, the dreadful Xmas-related excitement (and associated hyperactivity and shrillness) is surely directly proportional to the number of times an image of Santa is spotted. Or a window display featuring snow. Or a Christmas tree. Undoubtedly enough to make one seriously consider upping sticks and relocating to a non-Christian country, no? On the other hand, I like to imagine that all savvy parents use this overexposure of the bearded man to their distinct advantage…
When I was a child and attending Catholic primary school, one of the favourite disciplinary tactics utilised by Sister Marie (a nun who taught me for two of my formative years), was to zealously inform the class that Jesus was watching us and knew EVERYTHING we did… Nothing since has instilled such a sense of fear in my heart as that image of an omnipresent (and, indeed, OMNIPOTENT) God observing my every move (and presumably planning how to wreak his revenge on me). Surely this tactic can be subtly adapted in the run-up to Christmas… “If you don’t go to bed now, Santa’s magic elf will see and you’ll get a lump of coal for Christmas.” (Do today’s parents still use the story of the child who misbehaved and received this carbon comeuppance in lieu of any gifts?) Perhaps a threat better-suited to the times would be something along the lines of: “If you don’t stop shouting then Rudolph will move you to the bottom of the new X-Box-756 list, and everyone knows they’re going to sell out for sure this year, so if you’re not near the top of that list you won’t be getting one…” It would be one way of avoiding the shops in the ever-increasing run-up to the big day…
I detest shopping at the best of times, but I hate it even more in the run-up to Christmas. Everything about the experience appears to have been masterminded to make it as unpleasant as possible. Here is a by-no-means comprehensive list of the elements I hate most:
1. The truly terrible music. Why oh why oh WHY do shops insist on playing Christmas songs on a loop? Perhaps it is a cunning ploy to reduce staffing costs by encouraging everyone who has even remotely good taste in music to shop online.
2. The displays of ‘Christmas Gifts’ which are always situated slap-bang in the centre near the entrance to the shop, rendering it impossible to avoid either the racks themselves, or the associated hoards of unimaginative people that surround them. Surely the only time you would make a bee-line for one of these dreadful displays is if you are obliged to buy a Secret Santa gift for someone you barely know (do not get me started on this ridiculous concept!), or if you want to find something suitably cringe-worthy for someone you dislike immensely; desk-top hoover anyone? Fart-noises key-ring? ‘Comedy’ socks?
3. The fact that suddenly anything I might actually wish to buy is moved from its nice, familiar, normal place to somewhere else entirely; I do not wish to spend any longer in a department store than is absolutely necessary. I certainly do not wish to embark on a two mile trek that takes me past your strategically placed displays of sleigh-shaped egg cups, Rudolph-inspired pillowcases, Santa-themed y-fronts, clashing jumpers – destined (thankfully) to be worn for one day of the year only, snowball-esque earrings, or special Christmas hot water bottle covers … What makes it even worse is the fact that this entire obstacle-course is destined to be accompanied by a homicidal-urge evoking Christmas soundtrack. Hell on earth. When I am Queen, it will be compulsory that all shops wishing to sell Christmas-themed junk will have a designated Christmas Department. It is here that all the associated paraphernalia will live in a veritable grotto of green glitter and twee tunes, and those of us with taste will actively avoid it.
4. Other shoppers. I don’t feel I need to elaborate. Well, except to possibly mention the irritating abundance of people seemingly unable to walk at a normal pace, or to control their children, or to show a little common courtesy instead of ramming my ankles with their fistfuls of bags.
5. The constant barrage of information relating to the number of shopping days left until Christmas. I have been known to cull people from my friends list on Facebook when they have repeatedly felt the need to keep me informed of such tedious tidings. Or indeed when they smugly publicise the fact that all their presents are purchased, wrapped and under the tree (on the 2nd of November, no less…) Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a flyng f$@*!
For me, there is a certain knack to a successful Christmas shopping trip. Well, for starters, I do the majority of my festive purchasing online, but alas sometimes a trip to town simply cannot be avoided. First, I retire to a town-centre watering hole (it is vital that it be town-centre; for reasons that will become apparent). Secondly, I drink no fewer than two, but no more than three drinks of an alcoholic persuasion whilst writing my all-important list. It is a very fine line and I have perfected the art of this: the drinks must act to desensitise against the horrors of the shopping mall, yet not impair judgement to too great an extent – the last thing I want is to be obliged to embark upon a repeat visit to return any drunkenly-purchased and unsuitable gifts. Thirdly, I depart the pub and head to my shop of choice with a list. It is handy to leave a companion in the pub to save your seat and keep an eye on your coat (shops get very warm pre-Christmas). It’s also handy to be able to text them and demand they head to the bar as you’re dying of boredom (and thirst) in the queue, having heard “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day” for the fourth time, knowing for a FACT that if you’d only had one more gin you would be challenging the kids fighting in front of you to explain the logistics of Santa getting down every chimney in the world in one night… That would definitely take their minds off their battle over the most coveted red and green plastic item… Lastly, I run back to the well-situated pub (I’m not wearing a jacket, remember), where hopefully a well-earned drink is awaiting me. Job done.
Unfortunately, those people who get over-excited by the festive season cannot be adequately contained in shopping centres, Santas Grottos, and Christmas markets. All-too-often they spill over into the realm of the real world (AKA: the local pub). The pre-Christmas period is my least-favourite time to work behind the bar. Sadly, these places which usually act as havens are inundated with office parties comprising of individuals who don’t usually frequent pubs and are oblivious to the rules governing acceptable behaviour. They congregate in the way of anyone attempting to reach the bar wearing their ‘ironic’ Christmas jumpers, they ask for idiotic things such as ‘a pint for Jim from accounts’ (a pint of WHAT, you Santa-hat wearing imbecile, and how on earth am I meant to know who Jim is?), they demand that the volume on the jukebox be turned up (not a chance mate, we’ve already listened to an hour of tortuous Christmas tunes), and they drink far more than they are used to and end up dancing on tables/crying/falling asleep in the toilets/divulging their deepest, darkest secrets to reluctant listeners (delete as appropriate). Give me the argumentative regulars any day!
I’m going to end here as I need to work out how many shopping days I have left…And if I carry on much longer, I will be ranting into November and ‘Christmas in November’ simply wouldn’t have the same ring to it…