Starting to feel like Christmas

Christmas is coming. For some it may have already arrived, because advertisements featuring the red, light-festooned delivery trucks of a certain drinks manufacturer were seen on television weeks ago and for those people it’s the symbolic start of the countdown to 25/12.

For most of us there’s still some way to go before the celebrations can begin and ultimately it seems more like a marathon as we encounter full on advertising at every turn, balanced by pester power to keep Father Christmas busy and everyone else happy.

The man must have tremendous links with the transport infrastructure of the world. That, or a remarkable line in reindeer food.

Today, as this paper is published, the final touches are be being made to preparations for the Christmas lights switch-on in Northampton tonight (Thursday).

The stars of panto will be on hand to push the button, there’ll be the singing of Christmas carols and a general sense of welcoming in such a hugely important period of the calendar to so many.

The trees went up a week ago, the tree lights were tested and street lights stretched across and through the major shopping areas of the town.

A huge ice rink is now installed in the Market Square, and, following on from the brilliant events and lessons of 12 months ago, there’ll be more festive attractions to delight shoppers, young and old.

Motorists will even be able to drive into town and park (at certain times and places) for free. Truly ’tis the season to be jolly . . .

Of course, the counterpoint to all of this is the fact that our economy is so fragile that with a few well-placed headlines in the financial press, or a gloomy outlook from Scrooge, things could look very bleak indeed.

I read a report earlier in the week which quoted the British Retail Consortium as saying that one in 10 of all shops throughout the UK is now empty.

I would suggest that that is a pretty accurate assessment, given what I see not only in Northampton but in other areas of the county too.

Much of the shopping that will go on in the run-up to Christmas will be online where costs and also prices are lower.

The difficulties of the Comet chain have been well documented. I went to one of its stores last week and it was as if a hoard of shopping vultures had descended to pick over the bones of a recently deceased corporate animal.

It’s the staff of the business that I feel for right now. It’s horrible not knowing what your future holds in uncertain times and that control of your own destiny lies in the hands of others. I know the feeling very well myself.

Whatever the economic circumstances though, it is part of our national character to make the most of what comes our way. Indeed certain commentators have suggested that this year we will demonstrate a cautiously optimistic attitude and generally increase our festive spending.

As Christmas starts to draw closer, I wonder what values will emerge from the season of peace and goodwill.

At some point the word “traditional” will drop into common parlance and collectively we will again seek to re-establish the meaning of Christmas.

In all honesty the answer is right there in the word itself, but I wonder how many of us will consider it.

It’s perhaps something that Hamas and Israeli politicians might like to ponder, given that the world’s attention is turned towards them right now.

Did you know that Bethlehem is just over 50 miles from the Gaza Strip?