Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christmas Countdown

Edinburgh skyline at dusk

The first major sign of Christmas approaching is always the TV adverts. Actually, my Mum starts getting Christmas merchandise catalogues sent to her around August - is that right Mum? (she's obliged to read this), but it's always on television that the impending sense of dread starts to creep in, around the end of October. I'm no Scrooge when it comes to the festive spirit, but after the media try and flog us the doubtful joys of Halloween (something people outside of North America just don't celebrate), the Christmas adverts start. Then the shops get all geared up, and there's no escape.

Edinburgh does the Chistmas thing very well, which helps limit the blow if you're not a fan of the festive. The crushingly dark conditions at this time of the year lend themselves well to decorations, and the entire city sparkles with light. The cavernous blackness of Princes Street Gardens is illuminated by hundreds of light bulbs twinkling in the trees, George Street is draped in Christmas lights strung across the road, and the large Norwegian tree sits proudly atop the Mound, fronting the silhouetted castle behind. It helps of course that Edinburgh is such a picturesque city - you could decorate the streets with razor wire and it would look good. I hear they did that for the G8 Summit last July, actually.

Princes Street hosts the ubiquitous German market, which has grown considerably since I was last here - to appease the colour supplement-reading middle classes no doubt. I wonder if they have British markets in Germany? Spar carrier bags tied in trees and all the bacon Frazzles and lukewarm Carling you can take. The large ferris wheel is there, (see photo above) next to the wonderous jagged monument to Sir Walter Scott. When I see the workers constructing it, for me that's the start of Christmas. There's also an ice-rink nearby - which of course I won't use after my catastrophic skating incident in Boston. I walked past it once when my Mum was up visiting (she's my biggest fan!) and it had rained so much the ice was flooded. Kids were taking it in turns to dive headfirst and slide the entire length of the rink, supported by a large wave of icy water.

I've already seen plenty of Christmas displays in shops and houses on my bus trips back from work - some real corkers. Not quite the scale people go to in (again) North America, but you can only do so much on a budget. This year's must-have seems to be vertical lights that strobe and flash different shades of blue, making the entire window look like one of those insect electrocutors you see in restaurant kitchens. I bet it confuses the hell out of moths. Looking for the best (and worst) of these displays livens up the bus trip - I can remember entire lenghty car journeys as a young lad were passed by counting Christmas trees in house windows as we zoomed past. How gullible kids can be, eh? Anyway, time to start thinking about the dreaded Christmas shopping, and the always worthwile office Christmas Party. Yeah!