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Open Features: Appreciating The Moment

"By nature I am quite perky about the festive season, the whole shebang. I love the smell of it, fir trees and frost outdoors, spices and warmth indoors. I love the preparation for it, the buying of presents, wrapping them, writing the cards, sending and receiving them. I love the intangible magic of Christmas, but it takes a lot these days to conjure it up after having my senses mauled by the major stores,'' writes columnist Mary Pilfold-Allan.

We have sadly come to accept Christmas muzak playing in our high street shops when we haven’t yet celebrated harvest. Likewise, jolly Santas hanging from balloon-strewn ceilings and great mounds of tinsel heaped up by the tills. Then there are the recipe books, telling us how to cook our turkeys and what to do with the leftovers, that start appearing on bookstands well before anyone has even thought of digging up the last potatoes, let alone packing away the lawn mower. The marketing gurus, who try so hard to have us racing through the year at breakneck speed, need to pause for breath and give people a chance to appreciate the ‘moment’.

And so it is early November, the trees in this neck of the woods are still covered in leaves, the squirrels skipping about nut gathering and two late born squabs are perked precariously on our fence learning to flap their wings prior to a first flight. There has not been a hint of a decent frost. My husband and I head for London on a jolly and what do we find, Oxford and Regent Streets festooned with Christmas lights – and what lights. Am I living in a different time zone or are we about to enter the Year of the London Olympics?

Mistakenly it seems, I had thought that we might have had a hint of it in the illuminations throughout our capital city, the lights will be there for the start of 2012. Not much good next year when the games are over. How wrong can I be? Instead, I think the displays are meant to be cobwebs and ribbon tied-parcels. OK the latter is a nod to Christmas, but cobwebs…have I missed something? Is there a Santa Spider somewhere that I haven’t heard about? Or is it that the cobwebs are a subliminal reference to money (spiders). Money, money makes the tills go around?

Down in Whitehall the veterans have just marched to honour the fallen, poppies have been laid and the strains of Beethoven’s Funeral March barely drifted away on an almost balmy breeze. Old soldiers are sitting outside coffee shops and reminiscing about their youth. A mile away in the shopping heart of the capital the rush and crush is so great you could be tempted into thinking its Christmas next week!

Returning home to our village is like returning to normal time. The Christmas Bazaars are still to come; the children have yet to be cast in the Nativity play and I can visit the local shop without being blasted by ‘Jingle Bells’. O bliss!

It’s simple really. Magazines urging readers to start planning for the festive season early to take the stress out of the event only succeed in piling on the pressure for longer. Let us begin sensibly and put Christmas into the box marked December. Gone are the days when cards for overseas had to be posted in September and because the chickens stopped laying in October, cakes and puddings had to be stashed away 10 weeks in advance. Yes, I will agree, it does give them time to mature, but if you buy them in the supermarket they were probably made last March anyway. As for the fir tree, I know there are now species that do not drop their needles but why not bring it into the house just before or even on Christmas Eve and have the novelty of it on ‘the day’ rather than it becoming part of the furniture for weeks.

As of now I make it around five weeks to the shortest day and almost six weeks to 25th December. With fair wind and good luck we may still have some pleasant weather to come and no need to dig out the fur-lined boots just yet.

And while I am quietly looking forward to enjoying the festive season in the presence of my friends and family, I do not want to be made to feel I should have started preparations in September. Can we have a little sense about the situation please?


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