IT’S BEGINNING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS…

JOHN McGURK

In the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday, there were more Christmas decorations on display in Princes Street shop windows than red poppies in jacket loopholes. The bombardment seems to start earlier each year.

Soon it will be Black Friday, the “official” first day of festive shopping, when retailers will deliberately reduce their prices to entice the masses brainwashed by the thought of a bargain to kick off this year’s spend.

The scenes last year were as feral as they were spectacular when folk happily trampled over grannies and children in prams to get to the discounted flat screen televisions on display in Asda supermarkets before anyone else.

Not to be outdone, online retailers invented Cyber Monday to be staged three days later while the Christmas TV ads, plastic trees, restaurant menus, pub fairy lights, Bing Crosby, mince pies and sofas, with the promise of being delivered on time for the big day, will soon invade our lives.

This year the cost of Christmas in the UK is expected to top £8.5 billion but, interestingly, some £2.5 billion is likely to be spent on gifts which nobody wants.

Edinburgh, where it appears to be festival time virtually all year round, is gearing up to turn its centre into another frenzy of side shows, including German sausages and mulled wine stalls, to appease the many thousands of visitors who will descend on the place.

For many who live smack in the city centre, and Edinburgh is one of the few cities in the country which genuinely offers this wonderful facility, the noise, pollution and disturbance is becoming too much to bear.

Princes Street gardens will become a fun fair complete with a Ferris wheel to dwarf the Scott Monument while those high-rising spinning swings, where participants can take their lives in their hands, will also dominate the skyline.

This year, down in Grassmarket there’s to be another trashy display of all of the above so that the pubs, restaurants and coffee bars there can keep the festive tills ringing and the profits rising.

The fun is scheduled to start at 10 am and finish at 10pm and last for nearly two months in an area ironically designated as a world heritage site.

Some folk who already leave their homes during the Edinburgh Fringe to avoid the madness will be considering what they can do to dodge the drunks and the urinators who will be attracted to their doors during the winter months.

Perhaps it’s too easy to become cynical about everything creeping further forward and the awful commercialism which has clearly taken over, but is this really how we want to celebrate Christmas?

This is not to say that Christmas should be a religious festival without any of the trimmings because that is also a load of hokum since there is absolutely no biblical or historic evidence that Jesus was actually born on December 25.

It appears that our annual winter bash goes back to Roman times and started with a celebration of the winter solstice around the end of December.

The idea was to praise the slow increase of the sun’s arc in the sky and its impending rebirth as the seasons moved towards spring.

When the Romans converted to Christianity under the emperor Constantine, this pagan festival was adapted along with the idea of gifts and the decoration of evergreens.

Perhaps this explains what Christmas in the 21st century is all about… a return to our pagan roots and a replay of our tribal instincts.

After all, it’s got much more to do with the Sun God than the son of God!

 

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