Thursday, 22 December 2011

Vanishing Christmas

When I was twenty-three, I belonged to a small choir directed by a talented musician and composer. We sang one of his compositions for holiday concerts and services. Being an alto, my part sounded something like this: ♫OOOOOooooh -oooOOOoooh - Ooooooh - we'll remember, we'll remember - OOOOOoooh - Christmas - as it was today, as it was today...♪

As a result, I can't really remember the lyrics, but I do remember the gist of the song, a cataloging of things to do with the modern Christmas.

It occurred to me when I was listing "Christmas essentials" yesterday that there are aspects of my remembered Christmases that are already gone or on their way out. I can think of three offhand:

1. Magical, moving shop window displays. I'm trying to figure out when these vanished; I don't recall seeing any in the nineties. I gather they still do them in New York, but then, they would have the cash, wouldn't they? I don't think there was anything as grand as this on Douglas Street or Jasper Avenue, but there used to be ambitious mechanized Christmas tableaux that appeared in Canadian shop windows the day after Remembrance Day. Now we get sulky, skinny mannequins.

2. Decent Christmas television. Plays, variety shows, concerts. In Canada on Christmas Day, you're pretty well stuck with The Sound of Music (that great summertime Christmas movie complete with Nazis) and White Christmas They've even stopped showing "Christmas at Kings". I see the BBC promos for Christmas Day telly, and sigh heavily.

3. Christmas cards. We still get quite a few of those, but the eternal and infernal so-called "Christmas Letter", with its carefully laundered and impersonal list of familial accomplishments and travelogues, has been gradually transforming our Christmas card strings into something resembling a clothesline. Increasingly, we get the letter as an email attachment which is a sort of improvement in that it can be deleted with one key-tap.

It all comes down to money and time, I suppose. Shop windows need staff to maintain them and someone to fix the moving parts. Shows must be thought up, produced, acted and paid for somehow. And snail-mail? So last century, expensive and labour-intensive.

I'm not really looking forward to explaining to my grandchildren (should I have any - children are so last century and expensive) about shop windows, television and stamps.

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