With the chilly November evenings closing in on us, the darkening evenings, and the aggravation of lugging a heavy jacket around campus, this is usually the time of year when the world-weary individual can look forward to the raising of Dublin’s Christmas lights, their illuminating glow heralding the festive season. November the nineteenth would make it roughly a week until the traditional show of Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, any enthusiasts keen to watch the grand premier can strike it off their list of things to see: the Christmas lights have already been turned on.
It seems that Dublin City Council have taken the somewhat controversial decision to flick the switch three weeks early. Complaints were issued from various sources, including Ryan Tubridy, who mentioned that it doesn’t feel like Christmas when leaves are still falling as opposed to snow. One reason for the pine trees now adorning our streets is that the DCC is frantically trying to boost ever falling sales by oh-so-subtly reminding shoppers that the season of winter is a time for presents. The battle between Christmas and commercialism is age-old, but whether a three-week head start makes a difference remains to be seen.
Away from the showcase that is O’Connell Street, shops on Grafton Street have followed the lead and unveiled their Christmas window displays. As usual, Brown Thomas is the most notable. The decorations are undeniably attractive, and BT’s windows have stopped pedestrians in their tracks, leading to un-festive use of elbows by those in a hurry, as mesmerised shoppers gaze in wonder at the decorations that, apparently, can all be bought inside.
Even the Luas has Christmas attire on carriages, painted on the outside naturally. Those things are crowded enough without some well-meaning person trying to shove a Christmas tree in. Not surprisingly, any reference to the religious side of the festival is non-existent. Heaven forbid you have an attack of Christian piety as you stand in Brown Thomas. What is interesting to note is that there is a noticeable absence of the fat guy in the red suit. The Stephens’ Green interior consists of gold streamers and crackers, while BT2 has a display of gingerbread men that will have Shrek producers marching down the street to sue for copyright. But perhaps the absence of jolly St. Nick is only temporary. After all, it is early days yet, despite what you may see on O’Connell Street.
The depressing fact of the matter is that if lights and trees are up the month before December, and if we begin to prepare for Christmas now, then we haven’t a hope of our Christmas living up to the hype. When all is said and done, Christmas only lasts for two days and preparing for those two days practically two months in advance is going to lead to an inevitable let down. Having Christmas on the brain from early November means that the only scenario that could exceed expectations would be one where Colin Farrell or some other smouldering screen star calls over Christmas eve, informs you that he’s loved you all his life and incidentally, in the spirit of the season, Trinity are offering you exemption from the exams. Not to mention that Granny slipped the winning Lotto ticket into your Christmas card. With all the adverts, lights and tinsel, you will feel abject misery if you end up passing Christmas watching television or frantically working on that project you swore you’d start in October.
There have been comments and dubious looks at the “Christmas tree” that happily flashes away by the spire. It’s an LED tree. For those who are uncertain of what that is, march up to the science block and demand an explanation. In simple terms, it saves energy. It was designed by the French company Blachere, whose commissions include the Eiffel Tower and decorations for cities such as Milan and Monaco. Without one pine needle, fake or otherwise, it consists entirely of small lights that change from white to green to blue whenever the mood takes it. Granted, it is eye catching. On the other hand, it’s not so much a Christmas tree as a bunch of bubbles in cone formation. Last year, it was the chandelier lights that appeared on Grafton Street that caught people’s attention. But the new O’Connell Street LED decorations are seventy five per cent more energy efficient than tradition lights and will save much more energy.
Well, one thing it certainly won’t save is our money. The Blachere Christmas tree cost an estimated €300,000, and that’s not even taking account of the other decorations. Retailers, businesses and the DCC decided to splash out on the twinkling pyramid and then, to add insult to injury, turned it on three weeks early! It costs almost €2 million every year to light the streets and host special events at Christmastime. It is bitterly ironic that in our worst economic crises since the 1980s, with the country in recession and the credit crunch hovering over our every purchase, that Dublin City Council decided to add on some needless expenses to our electricity bill.
Of course there are the usual allegations that it’s all in the spirit of Christmas and no matter how far away it is, it brightens the gloom of the recession. I’m united with Scrooge on this one. Bah Humbug.