Wasn’t last Friday surreal? Zara Home had a queue till the entrance of its store. Scan had people queuing from 6am. Sliema was chock-a-block, with shops staying open till midnight. Online, it was berserk. My sister kept Whatsapping me links to tops that I might like, but by the time I made up my mind, the sizes kept running out. In the evening we spent hours waiting for online shops to load because virtual traffic was mad.
The pressure to buy on Black Friday was so intense that for a moment it felt like we were all zombies walking with our arms spread out and mouthing “MUST BUY, MUST BUY”.
I am hopeless at this – which is why you’ll never find me at the January sales. I just stand in the middle of a shop, shuffling my feet on the spot, and stay rooted there while people around me grab all sorts of possible bargains.
For the record, it’s not called Black Friday because we all suffer a blackout. The name was coined to describe the heavy traffic in the US on the day after Thanksgiving. Over the decades it morphed into a successful marketing ploy, so much so that in the US, people actually get injured in the scramble to the shops.
Anyway, next year I’ll take the day before off, call it Red Thursday or something, and I’ll do my shopping in peace and quiet in empty shops.
It seems to me, but maybe it’s just me, that Christmas has started early this year. I had an inkling this would be so in October. There are two houses in Attard that we pass by on our evening dog walk, and by mid-October, both their facades were already kitted out in full Christmas regalia: climbing Father Christmas; blue, red and white twinkling lights; light sign of Father Christmas on a sleigh; reindeers, and tinsel everywhere.
According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, decorating the outside of your house makes you appear more friendly, but somehow I have this niggling feeling that these two household are in a tiny wee bit of competition. Every year, each house adds that one more statement piece of decoration. “Hah! See if you can outdo this!” one house seems to be telling the other. I sort of pity the house in between, which stubbornly won’t partake in any of this and must have invested in the thickest of black-out blinds.
Christmas is all about magic. It’s the time of the year when we’re allowed to believe in magic. The magic of hope, the hope that things will be better
However, by end of October, it was not just these Attard houses. I was spotting Christmas decorations wherever I turned my head. I’d go to shops and tune in to a background of Christmas carols, I’d go to dinner to friends and be greeted by the Christmas tree. But it’s still early November isn’t it, I kept asking. “Oh, we just felt like setting up earlier this year,” came the standard reply.
And you know what? Even I have been feeling this urge to deck the halls with boughs of holly. Traditionally we put up the tree on December 8, but this year we had it up by the end of November. Somehow I craved the cosiness brought about by the Christmas decorations: the fairy lights, the fleecy throws, the festive cushions and the general warm glow.
Maybe it’s the weather. Farmers told me they haven’t seen such a wet October and November in decades. Grey, dull skies every morning, and the constant threat of rain do nothing to uplift the mood.
Following the news does not help either – the world, including Malta, seems keen on fudging all sense of what is right in the name of money. I look at us one hundred years on from the World War I and think, have we as humans learnt anything at all? No wonder the Oxford Dictionary word of the year is ‘toxic’ this time (compare to the more upbeat ‘youthquake’ of last year).
It’s clear then that the weather, the world, and a particularly arduous 2018, makes us all long for a speedier wrapping up of the year. And what better way to bring that about than by pretending in October that we don’t still have three more months to go?
I don’t think it’s the festive cheer that we’re after really. I don’t happen to be one to consider Christmas as a particularly jolly time. For me, it always brings back the heart-wrenching memories of my father who loved Christmas so much. For you, I’m sure it evokes others.
Christmas is a suitcase of emotions. It’s not the merriment or cheer that we’re after so early in the year. So what is it that Christmas makes us long for then?
“Isn’t it obvious mama,” said my daughter when I muttered the question out loud. “Christmas is all about magic. It’s the time of the year when we’re allowed to believe in magic.”
The magic of hope, the hope that things will be better.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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