Although many may consider it ludicrous, I made the slightly misinformed decision to brave the onslaught of Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street this weekend. Partly to finish my Christmas shopping but also with the hope to revel in the true festivities of Christmas taking place in the heart of London. There’s no doubt that London is magical at this time of year – the lights twinkling down over Regent Street, the excited squeals coming from Hamleys toy store, the nostalgic window displays at Liberty (showcasing scenes from The Nutcracker this year) and just the general cheer of those around you.
Christmas tends to bring out the best in people, much the same as the sunshine does during the warmer months. Perhaps it’s knowing you’re spending time with family and away from work, and even if it’s only for a few short days, it tends to put us in a good mood. Or maybe it’s that many of us enjoy buying presents and spoiling those we love at Christmas.
I read that an estimated £450,000 a minute was spent across Britain on Saturday as it was predicted sales reached £3.5billion in just one day. As you can imagine, I didn’t quite finish my Christmas shopping and retreated back to the rural landscape of Norfolk earlier than planned. Now I knew, of course, that Oxford Street would be busy the Saturday before Christmas, but I think I underestimated, naively perhaps, just quite how busy it would be.
Although, for many, 2016 hasn’t been the most successful of years due to unexpected political decisions and the untimely passing of celebrities – Christmas offers us a time to enjoy the simple pleasures of good food, gift giving and spending time with family and friends.
But it seems inevitable that the price of Christmas continues to rise each year – toys become more expensive as children seem no longer satisfied with wooden train sets and board games and television adverts continue to encourage us to spend more. The oldest toy store in the world, Hamleys, is charging parents £45 for children to visit Father Christmas this year, while many other stores are starting their sales early in a bid to entice us to spend even more money.
When asked what she wanted for Christmas, Susan Walker’s answer in A Miracle on 34th Street was wonderfully simple: a family. Of course, that is only a scene from a very good film but I do worry that the true magic and romance of Christmas is being lost in a growing age of consumerism.