Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Thoughts on a Christmas Window.

As a child I was always offended by any reference to Christmas that took place before Halloween or Bonfire Night.  I didn't want to learn carols at school, hear about pantomime tickets or see any form of decorations in the shops until I'd enjoyed the pleasures of those other two dark mysterious annual highlights. Those were both outdoor, night time, elemental experiences with their own excitements and dangers.... chief of which may have been the carving of the swede (or "turnip" as we used to call it in County Durham) lantern. These large swedes were fibrous, hard as wood and impervious to all but the sharpest knife- which in our household wasn't remotely sharp at all. For hours we'd whittle away ineffectively with the knife- then scrape away inside with a tablespoon until blisters, gashes or bent cutlery prevented further progress. Once the suitably gruesome face had been carved, a stump of candle was inserted and lit in the lantern- only for it to inevitably blow out as soon as it was taken outdoors. 

The run up to Bonfire Night was a frenzy of finding, collecting and storing bonfire materials. My family's contribution was generally kept in an outbuilding until the very last day to protect it from lightning raids by rival children from "up The Bank" (a local place rather than a financial institution). At the last moment a mountain of  more or less flammable materials would be dragged to the appointed place, to be set alight and burned in a satanic fog of lung busting, black smoke. The acceptable face of fly tipping!

Only after these dark communal rituals had been observed and enjoyed could thoughts turn to the brighter, cleaner, indoor, family celebration of Christmas.

To be honest, I still think the same way. I may begin making and buying the perfect presents in November, but we never put up our family tree or decorations until the "clan" of adult daughters, their spouses and little Granddaughter has gathered, usually on Christmas Eve. 

But in the gallery it has to be very different. Hand crafted items can have a long "lead" or making and delivery time- so it's vital to order (and in our case, also create) stock in good time. Once the big stores begin their barrage of seasonal advertising we have to be prepared begin too, because any small business who doesn't make good sales for Christmas, may not survive until Easter. This is why I have to risk the "ba-humbugging" of passersby who would rather I waited till later to launch my window display. But on balance, I know I get far more positive comments about my window  than negative ones.... From it being pronounced  as "cool" by passing schoolchildren, to a lady yesterday who confessed that it had given her "the first warm Christmassy feeling I've had yet this year". That's good enough for me!

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