Christmas Day will be here in less than a week. The street decorations have been lit for the past month. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. The retail stores are counting their footfall and profits, and wondering whether there will be a last minute rush. Children are writing their Santa letters, and parents are ignoring their ever increasing credit card spending.
Am I the only one who wonders, in the midst of this spending frenzy, where the magic has gone, the simple pleasures, and the enjoyment of what was once a religious festival.
Memory Lane is sometimes a place it’s better not to visit. Everything in the past wasn’t perfect, and life for many has improved substantially, but in the process maybe we have become more disillusioned and less satisfied with the simple pleasures of the past.
However, the temptation to wander through Christmases past is beckoning. There were no expensive presents left in the stocking I pinned up every year when I was a young child. But then, in those days we didn’t know what the most popular gift of the year was, because we had no television to tell us. The savvy children of today would be horrified to be presented with those bygone stockings. There was an apple and an orange in the toe of the stocking, a few nuts, a half-a-crown (12½ pence in today’s money), and your special present. In my case it was a book, often one of the Chalet Girls series or something similar. The book usually cost two shillings (10 pence in today’s money). And that was it. Did we miss out? Not really, because we didn’t know anything different.
I’m not sure when it all changed. I remember getting a bike one Christmas, when I was a bit older. And the book increased to include an annual, usually The Broons or Oor Wullie, favourites in Scotland. So there was a gradual change.
Then, after I was married, we tried to give each other a ‘good’ present at Christmas, and as the years went by and we became a bit more affluent, we could afford to spend a bit more. But it was still the simple things that thrilled the most. The pillowcase (notice how the size has increased from the stocking) my husband filled for me every Christmas and left at the side of my bed on Christmas Eve after I’d fallen asleep, so that I could imagine Santa had visited during the night. It always contained my favourite perfume, a box of chocolates and various nick-nacks he’d gathered in secret over the preceding month. And of course, the books, four of them. I never did find out how he found out what I wanted to read, but his choice was always spot on. I think I loved that Santa sack more than the special present he always bought me as well. It was worth more than diamonds to me.
Alas, I lost my husband ten years ago, so no more Santa sacks. I still get Christmas presents from all of the family, and I appreciate what they give me because they put thought behind the gifts. But I do miss that Santa sack and the thrill of waking up to find it beside my bed.
But times have changed, and I am as guilty as the next person of racking up the credit card to an unimaginable level in the pursuit of the perfect present for my friends and family. Of sending bigger and better Christmas cards, and of suffering the throes of anguish when I have received more cards than I sent, and can’t remember who I’ve forgotten.
Oh well, let’s leave Memory Lane behind. I’m sure none of us would want to return there, we’re far too busy enjoying the benefits of a modern lifestyle.
A happy and enjoyable Christmas when it comes, or if you prefer a quote from one of my friends – “Bah, humbug!”