A couple of recent articles [1, 2] in the newspaper had me think about how Christmas has changed. Looking back on the more recent ones, I have found that building up the spirit of the season has become increasingly difficult. The articles had me think about the Christmases of my youth: the thrill of going downtown to shop, to witnessing all the displays, the lights, a few flakes of snow adding sparkle to the cool air, excitement orchestrated by the bells of sidewalk-Santas taking collections for the needy. Going downtown to shop was a performance that triggered Christmas Spirit; that sense of joy.
There are many performances related to Christmas: setting up the tree, and exterior lights; making Christmas cookies; wrapping gifts; traditional menus, with wine, Cointreau, oranges; traditional Christmas music. Yet, some are waning: Christmas cards are being replaced by e-mails; the snow and cold is being banished by climate change; Christmas cookies are more often bought than made.
The articles I read were about on-line shopping and ho it is impacting in-store shopping. This year, with one exception, all my shopping was on-line. Shopping on-line is not the same as going downtown to shop. The performance is less engaging, the physical interaction is limited to a keyboard, no breathing cold air, walking through the slush, it take less time to complete, it lacks the social engagement as it can be done in solitary, in the middle of the night.
But is this change really so bad? Today the journey downtown is daunting, either done on a crowded and often failing subway or if by car, endless trips around the block looking for parking, and when found, paying an arm and leg. The displays and lights remain, but the crowds make it difficult to stand and watch; the sidewalk-Santas compete with homeless-beggars. Going downtown to shop is a sojourn into frustration and anxiety. So while on-line shopping may not trigger the same degree of seasonal spirit, today’s in-store shopping risks running a deficit.
As our children grew and moved away, many of our performances were suspended. But with a new granddaughter, may be there will be a comeback.