Advent Calendar 2014: Day Eight

by Steve

Christmas lights in shopping mall

Saturday I found myself very briefly in a shopping centre. Now, I’m not going to bother ranting about the evils of capitalism or the horrors of consumerism. We all know about that, right? But it wasn’t a fun place to be.

I generally quite like Christmas shopping. It is fun flying around the shops seeing what I can get. I like saying “Merry Christmas!” to the shop assistants. I particularly like treating myself to a nice coffee, or a pint, as reward for a hard day’s buying stuff.

But this was not a fun environment. It was certainly not a festive one. There was a grim-faced determination to many shoppers. Others looked pretty zombie-fied. It made me wonder what all these people were doing, and then, what on Earth I was doing. This was less Christmas shopping, more some sort of numbing war of attrition, something to get through.

I suppose you get this close to Christmas and think, well, I suppose I better go out shopping. Although nobody seemed to be buying anything.

It appeared my fellow consumers saw every other shopper as an obstacle, an opponent, a threat. I tried to stand out of the way, yet they charged towards me, sometimes going out of their way to do so. I guess they figured the only way to ensure I wouldn’t end up in their way, was to get in my way first.

Then, something clicked. I realised the reason I have found Christmas shopping fun is that I have left it to the last minute. It might be more frantic then, but it is more enjoyable,. All the boring, organised people are out-of-the-way, sat smugly at home staring at their already-wrapped presents. Last-minute shopping is populated by the disorganised, the lazy, the time-poor, and I think they may well be my people.

Plus, when you get to a couple of days before Christmas there is that excitement in the air, Christmas feels less like an impending chore, more like the good ol’ season of goodwill. Walking home, laden with bags, enjoying the Christmas lights twinkling and feeling like an extra in the finale of a corny old film.

Although I’m sure that theory will be tested come those last few days before Christmas…