I don’t mean to be a grinch. I love Christmas. I adore the idea of roasting chestnuts, drinking mulled wine and wandering round Christmas craft markets munching on a German Bockwurst. So with this in mind, why oh why, with my last bit of energy, did I venture to a massive supermarket yesterday to pick up some bits and pieces to complete my Christmas shopping?
The Teenager was bored, so he tagged along. I left him admiring the huge 3D television and went off, basket in hand. The store was heaving. Trolleys piled high with crisps, cider, tinsel and frozen meals came at me from nowhere. Whole extended families swarmed around every display and crammed every aisle.
We don’t do Christmas in Britain, we just do sheer, unadulterated tacky commercialism. I used to live in Europe and they’ve got the right idea there. Christmas is a gentle time, a time for families to gather together, a time for reflection and handed-down traditions. Decorations are restrained and tasteful. Sweets, cakes and gingerbread houses are homemade. They don’t get paralytic on cheap alcohol and 3-for-2 party food.
Back in the supermarket, boxes of toys were teetering in trolleys. Ever noticed the cheaper the toy, the larger the box? Kids were screaming, stamping their feet, the adults looking on indulgently. ‘See what Santa brings, eh Britney?’ Waves of people marched with grim intent up and down the aisles, pushing past people, taking no prisoners.
There’s a panic surrounding Christmas in this country. The shops are closed for a day, yet we stock up as if we’re facing Armageddon. It’s easy to get caught up in it though. I found myself contemplating the special cheese display, weighing up which festive multi-buy pack to put in my basket. Hang on. If I don’t eat it normally, why would I suddenly buy it for Christmas? I also hate bread sauce and Christmas pudding, but I kind of feel I should get some, just in case.
I left the store feeling disheartened and slightly grubby. And what’s more depressing is that you just know the Valentine’s and Easter goods are waiting in the storeroom, ready to be put out on Boxing Day. Bah, humbug.