So it’s December and the festive season, for most folk the festive season starts just about *now*, well, of course that’s for the more ..cough-cough organised of the sexes, for some of us it usually starts about the 24th (and sometimes even later). *All* shops this side of the pond are closed on Christmas day, therefore the opportunities for emergency gifts are severely limited with only petrol stations open. Thus gift giving can be a bit of a challenge, little five year old Tommy gets a car jack (so he can practice being a *real* mechanic), teenage Cindy gets a bottle of Battery De-ionised Water (very good for removing nail varnish and outer layers of skin) and Granny gets some forecourt flowers that not only have been sitting outside for two weeks have have a distinct odour of Eau De Petroleum
On the other side of the pond I know Christmas shopping starts with a big bang on Thanksgiving day aka Black Friday but I was surprised to see a Christmas shop open in July in New York City. It seems it’s open all year round including Christmas obviously and I’m wondering is there discount on Christmas day. I don’t know about you but I have a certain amount of admiration for the staff who work there. When working on Adult Intensive Care we all admired the Nurses who worked on Neonatal Intensive Care, we’ve no idea just how they did that job and I have the same sneaking admiration for the staff who work all year round in Christmas shops.. How do they do it, are they only allowed to work a few hours at a time, do they rotate with Libraries for a break, are they on drugs, are they deaf, do they get special counselling at the end of each day.. I’ve no idea how someone could work in a store like that day after day, it’s sounds like my idea of hell. I went into the one in NYC and chatted away with the staff, they all seemed reasonable sane and rather surprisingly I couldn’t see the wires controlling them nor could I find any large stashes of Prozac behind the counters..
So I don’t want you thinking you have it all your own way in the States, there actually is a reason why I am so Bah! Humbug! over Christmas.. When I worked in supermarket management in Norn Ireland during the 80’s, Christmas for us started on the first of September (move those beachballs and buckets/spades out of the way) and carried on relentlessly and remorselessly until 5:30pm on Christmas eve… We had the Christmas music playing over the shop constantly for four months and I was going demented by week three, especially as we were all working extra hours. David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing Little Drummer Boy I considered a particularly cruel and unusual punishment, by Christmas week I had developed a nervous twitch on hearing the first few bars of that tune and eyed the pick axe handles suspiciously..
So Christmas and me have history, but The Universe has got a huge sense of humour.. In the rest of London the street decorations don’t really go up until about the start of December but I live in Rooting Tooting. Tooting has a huge Asian population and a very popular Hindu festival is Diwali, which means a row of lights and it lasts five days. Wandsworth council, being the nice enlighten souls that they are, (and certainly aren’t chasing votes..) erect street decorations to celebrate Diwali.. In Tooting we have decorations going up in time for Diwali which I think was October the 17th this year..so since about the start of October I wander the rather interestingly lit streets of Tooting looking at the rather unusual Christmas decorations, I say rather unusual because half of the street lights are of Indian elephants and folk in turbans with “Sponsored By Spice Village” underneath and the other half are of reindeer’s and some jolly fat bloke with a beard.. (also sponsored by Spice Village strangely enough)
Oh, one last thing, on this side of the pond we celebrate Boxing day, a tradition when staff would receive small gifts from their employers in days gone past but I’m sure in centuries to come historians will look back and sagely declare that the origin of the name comes from the custom of taking boxes of gifts back to Toy’r’us for exchange the day after Christmas.. ;p